<
>

Scutaro's single breaks tie

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Marco Scutaro is the most consistent No.
9 hitter in the American League, even if his recent numbers
indicate otherwise.

Scutaro hit a tiebreaking two-run single with two outs in the
eighth inning to lead the Oakland Athletics to a 4-2 win over the
Anaheim Angels on Wednesday night.

Scutaro, batting just .161 over his last 15 games, singled to
right against Scot Shields (5-2) to snap an 0-for-8 skid and give
Oakland its fifth win in seven games.

Scutaro is batting an AL-best .311 when in the ninth hole, and
.195 in other spots in the order.

"I've been kind of struggling the last two or three weeks,"
said Scutaro, who became the A's starting second baseman after Mark
Ellis went out with a shoulder injury in spring training. "It's a
long season. You just keep battling. It always feels good when
you're struggling at the plate and get a big hit like that."

Scutaro's big hit came a night after rookie shortstop Bobby
Crosby hit a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning of the
A's 5-4 win -- showing that the two inexperienced middle infielders
are becoming more reliable every day.

"It's amazing," manager Ken Macha said. "We talked about
Crosby last night and tonight it's Scutaro."

Chad Bradford (4-4) pitched two-thirds of an inning for the win,
and Octavio Dotel worked the ninth for his second save in three
opportunities since being acquired from Houston in a three-team
trade last Thursday.

Shields' lone two losses since Sept. 11, 2002, have been to the
A's.

"I got myself in a jam in (my) first inning and got away with
it," Shields said of the seventh. "You can't give them too many
chances like that. We've hit a little bump in the road and we have
to fight through it. We're going to turn this thing around. We're
going to be all right."

Adam Kennedy hit a tying two-run homer in the fifth for the
Angels, who lost their third straight and fifth in seven games.

A's starter Barry Zito pitched seven strong innings, but didn't
get enough run support to get a decision. He's winless in the last
four starts.

Zito sat in the dugout crossing all his fingers on both hands
hoping for a run in the seventh -- and a win. Eric Karros was also
in on the finger-crossing.

"He wanted to do this thing, and I kind of joined him," Zito
said. "It didn't work. I won't do it again."

Oakland had runners on the corners with two outs in the inning
and Jermaine Dye at the plate facing Shields, who surrendered a
homer to Dye last Thursday. But Dye struck out swinging.

Zito lost his last two decisions and hasn't won since beating
Cincinnati 10-6 on June 8. The left-hander, who won the AL Cy Young
award in 2002, has struggled with location. He looked better
Wednesday, allowing two runs on four hits, striking out four and
walking two.

Macha said before the game Zito needed to be better early in
games, and keep from falling behind. Since San Francisco jumped out
to a five-run lead -- all unearned runs -- in the first inning of
Zito's previous outing last Friday, he has responded well. And he's
relaxed, too.

"A lot of times if you give up a lot of runs early, you just go
out and pitch," he said. "It takes you into attack mode."

Zito got a 1-2-3 first, then gave up two singles in the second
but pitched himself out of the threat. After Kennedy's single
leading off the third, Zito retired six straight before Robb
Quinlan walked in the fifth. Kennedy connected on a 1-0 pitch two
batters later for a two-run shot to right.

Angels starter John Lackey gave up seven hits and two runs in
six innings.

Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia called a team meeting after the
game to discuss what's been going wrong.

"We need to pick things up," he said. "We need to play
better. We've been a little disjointed. We're having a rough spell.
We definitely have to pick it up, and I'm sure we will."

The A's took a 1-0 lead on Mark McLemore's RBI single in the
third, then loaded the bases in the fourth on singles by Dye,
Erubiel Durazo and Adam Melhuse. Eric Byrnes hit a sacrifice fly to
right to score Dye for a 2-0 lead.

The A's evened the season series between the AL West rivals at
6-6. Anaheim swept Oakland in a three-game series here April
23-25.

Game notes
Zito is 10-5 in 18 career starts against the Angels -- his
most wins against any club but Texas. He has 12 victories vs. the
Rangers. ... Angels DH Tim Salmon didn't play after becoming sick
during the day with what manager Mike Scioscia called flulike
symptoms. ... The game drew 35,016, putting the A's over the
million mark (1,032,303) in attendance. ... In 18 starts at 3B in
place of injured Gold Glover Eric Chavez, McLemore is batting .290
(18-for-62) with 15 walks.