OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A grounder that deflected off first base for a run-scoring hit. A flyball lost in the sun to key a two-run inning.
The type of bounces that so often went against Barry Zito during his nine-start winless stretch finally went his way.Zito pitching seven strong innings for his first win since Sept. 12, getting just enough support in Oakland's 3-2 victory Sunday over the Seattle Mariners."The pieces are starting to come together," Zito said. "It's always nice to get a win. But the process is more important than the results."Zito (1-4), the last member of the "Big Three" still with the Athletics, allowed two runs and five hits. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner had lost five straight decisions, matching his career worst, before recovering against Seattle.While manager Ken Macha said he saw the frustration in Zito's face after his last loss, Zito maintained he's kept an even keel during this slump."That's what I learned last year," he said. "I can't let what I do dictate the person I am. A lot of guys get caught up in that. I'm the same person every day. That really contributes to my peace of mind."Erubiel Durazo hit a two-run double in the sixth inning off Joel Pineiro (2-2) for the big offensive blow for the A's, who had scored just six runs while Zito was in the game in his first five starts.The A's did have one setback when rookie right fielder Nick Swisher left in the third inning with an injury after crashing into the wall chasing Jeremy Reed's triple. Swisher, who also slammed his head into the wall, underwent tests on his right shoulder and his head at a hospital. A's trainer Larry Davis said the team wouldn't know Swisher's status until Monday.After trading aces Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder during the offseason, the A's were counting on Zito to be the leader of a
pitching staff full of potential. While the young starters have pitched well, combining for a 3.54 ERA, Zito had struggled with a 6.60 ERA."With the exception of the game against Tampa Bay (eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings), Barry has thrown the ball well. The guys just haven't scored runs for him," A's catcher Jason Kendall said. "He has kept us in game. It was nice to get him the win. Barry is going to be fine."Zito has reached back to his college days for some help, adding a slider to his repertoire for the first time as a pro to give him another option for a breaking pitch other than his big, slow curve. He estimated that he has thrown about 10 sliders per game his last few starts."It's a good pitch," he said. "It comes from a different plane than the curveball. It comes out of the hand looking like a fastball. It has more of a hard break."After giving up a grand slam to Bret Boone in the first inning against Seattle on April 20, Zito got off to a quick start. He retired the first seven batters and only once allowed more than one baserunner in an inning."He pitched more like he pitches," Boone said. "He threw strikes. The last time he got behind in the count."Pineiro, who had won seven straight decisions against Oakland, looked in command when he entered the sixth with a 2-1 lead. But Eric Chavez led off with a single and the A's got a break when Scott Hatteberg's flyball fell for a hit between second baseman Boone and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki."It was right in the sun," Boone said. "I never saw the ball. This is the toughest sun field during the day."Durazo, who entered 1-for-16 in his career against Pineiro, then hit a drive to center to score both runners. Durazo was caught trying to stretch it into a triple."I made a mistake to Durazo and he made me pay," said Pineiro, who pitched an eight-hitter for his seventh career complete game. "Other than that, it was a great-pitched ballgame by both teams."Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his sixth save despite walking the first two batters. Dotel recovered to strike out Adrian Beltre and get Richie Sexson to hit into a game-ending double play.Dotel, who threw 34 pitches and blew a save Saturday, pumped his fist and danced off the mound following the final out."I was so excited because I had nothing," he said. "When you give up no runs when you have nothing and can do the job you have to be excited."Seattle opened the scoring in the third when Reed tripled and scored on Miguel Olivo's sacrifice fly.Oakland tied it in the bottom half. With runners on first and second and two outs, Bobby Kielty hit a hard grounder that deflected off first base for an infield hit. Chavez scored when Boone had a hard time gripping on the ball and couldn't make a throw home.Seattle went ahead in the sixth on Randy Winn's RBI double.
Zito avoided becoming the first A's starter to open a season 0-5 since Steve Karsay and Mike Mohler in 1997. ... Zito did not allow a walk for the first time since July 28, 2003. ... Pineiro hadn't lost to Oakland since his first start ever against the A's on Sept. 22, 2001. ... Seattle is 1-6 in games started by lefties.