Tejada smacks two homers in A's victory


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics have regained three
things that eluded them for most of the summer: Miguel Tejada's
swing, Barry Zito's curveball and first place in the AL West.

Tejada hit two homers and Zito pitched eight innings of four-hit
ball as the Athletics won their fifth straight, 6-2 over the
Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

With outstanding performances by their two big award winners
from last season -- coupled with Seattle's 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay --
the surging A's reclaimed sole possession of the top spot in the
division for the first time since April 12.

"The whole night was pretty encouraging," said Zito, who took
a two-hitter into the eighth. "It's nice at least to show
ourselves that we can pull in front and not be a wild-card team
this year."

Zito (11-11) retired 19 of his first 21 batters. With his nasty
curve and changeup back in top form, he struck out three and walked
two in his third victory in four starts.

Oakland caught up to the Mariners last Monday atop the division
won by the A's last season. The teams meet six times in the final
nine games of the season, however.

"I don't know if we really feel too comfortable," said Eric
Chavez, who also homered as the A's got their ninth win in 11
games. "We've still got a lot of head-to-head. I think that's
where it's really going to be decided."

Tejada, whose early season slump is becoming a distant memory,
hit a solo homer in the second and a two-run shot in the fifth off
Pat Hentgen (5-7). It was the seventh career multihomer game for
last year's AL MVP, and it extended his hitting streak to eight

"It's better than being in second place," Tejada said with a
grin. "We've been playing great, and we've been through a lot of
stuff this year. Everybody is happy with first place."

With Mark Mulder probably lost for the season with a broken leg
bone near his hip, the A's are hoping their other left-handed ace
will finally acquire the consistency he has lacked all season -- and
in his first start since Mulder's injury was diagnosed, Zito was
nearly unhittable.

He retired nine of Baltimore's first 10 hitters until Deivi
Cruz's one-out homer in the fourth. Zito then retired 10 straight
before Jeff Conine's two-out single in the seventh.

"Zito was tough on us," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said.
"He had all his pitches working, and he was getting ahead with his
curve. He didn't miss many spots."

Though Zito has the AL's sixth-best ERA, he has made poor starts
with alarming frequency -- including his last one in Toronto, when
he blew a three-run lead in the sixth.

"I'm sure Barry is going to say he's not satisfied with his
year," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "Hopefully, he will get on
a roll and finish up strong, just pitching like he pitches."

Zito won a matchup of former AL Cy Young winners. Hentgen, who
won with Toronto in 1996, labored through 4 2-3 innings, throwing
113 pitches while allowing six hits, four walks and four runs.

"I battled with my command the whole game," Hentgen said. "I
was falling behind and walking people. I just pitched poorly."

Chad Bradford worked the ninth for Oakland.

Brian Roberts had a run-scoring single in the eighth for the
Orioles, who lost their fourth straight following a four-game
winning streak. They haven't beaten Oakland in five tries this

Cruz set a career high with his 14th homer in the fourth.

The A's got their second run on Chris Singleton's bases-loaded
walk in the fourth, but Hentgen struck out Scott Hatteberg to end
the rally. Oakland got another run in the sixth when Mark Ellis
singled and scored on Hatteberg's double-play grounder.

Chavez led off the seventh with his 24th homer.

Game notes
Hentgen had five strikeouts -- one shy of his season high.
... The A's are a season-high 23 games over .500. ... Hatteberg hit
leadoff in his first start since last Friday because of back
problems. He got the game-winning hit Tuesday night as a
pinch-hitter, slapping a bases-loaded single. ... OF Luis Matos got
the night off for Baltimore after getting hit on the left wrist in
the 12th inning Tuesday night. X-rays on his wrist revealed no
broken bones. Matos will be back "just whenever he can swing a
bat," Hargrove said.