<
>

Athletics pound out 15 hits, keep pace in wild card

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are hitting with gusto
again after a run of 13 games in which they couldn't score more
than five runs.

The Baltimore Orioles can only hope for a similar revival, or
their fleeting quest to end a streak of seven straight losing
seasons will soon be over.

Bobby Crosby and Eric Chavez hit successive homers in a
seven-run third inning, and Oakland used a 15-hit attack to cruise
past the struggling Orioles 12-3 Saturday.

Mark Ellis homered and drove in three runs, Jay Payton tied a
career high with four hits and Crosby had three hits and scored
twice to help Oakland win its fourth straight and closed within a
half-game of AL West-leading Los Angeles.

Before their 9-2 win over Detroit on Wednesday, the A's had lost
seven of eight -- mainly because they couldn't muster enough runs to
back up their solid pitching.

Their offense isn't a problem anymore: Oakland has averaged nine
runs a game during its winning streak.

"We were contagiously all bad at the same time, now we're
contagiously all swinging the bats pretty good," said Payton, who
went 4-for-5 and scored three runs. "Baseball's a funny game. You
can't figure it out. When it's good, you just try to enjoy it as
long as you can."

For the most part, Oakland has been very good over the past
three months. Since June 29, the A's have gone 57-24 and are tied
with the New York Yankees for the wild-card lead.

Joe Kennedy (3-0) pitched five innings of four-hit ball in his
first start with Oakland since joining the team in a July 13 trade
with Colorado. The left-hander started for Rich Harden, who has a
strained muscle in his right side.

"Kennedy coming out of the bullpen, that's a pretty outstanding
performance by him," A's manager Ken Macha said. "Giving up one
run in five innings is pretty good."

Melvin Mora homered for the Orioles, who have lost seven of
eight. During that run, Baltimore has been held to one run in four
games and has scored more than four runs only once.

The Orioles stranded 12 runners on Friday night in a 4-1 loss
and left nine on base Saturday, scoring only three runs on 11 hits.

"The good sign here is that there are people in scoring
position and we're getting them on a little bit more," interim
manager Sam Perlozzo said. "The next step is getting them in."

Baltimore committed three errors in falling to 10-11 under
Perlozzo, who took over for Lee Mazzilli on Aug. 4.

Right fielder Sammy Sosa missed a second straight game for the
Orioles after having a growth removed from under the nail of his
right big toe Friday, and Perlozzo rested first baseman Rafael
Palmeiro, who is 2-for-20 since returning on Aug. 11 from a 10-day
suspension for testing positive for steroids.

Baltimore starter Eric DuBose, who allowed one hit over six
shutout innings against Oakland just 10 days earlier, gave up a run
and two hits in the first inning. Crosby singled with two outs,
advanced on a walk and scored on a single by Payton.

By the third inning, DuBose (1-2) was gone. After Mark Kotsay
hit a leadoff single, Crosby and Chavez slammed 0-1 pitches over
the right-field wall. Payton followed with a single and Dan Johnson
walked before Perlozzo summoned James Baldwin from the bullpen.

Ellis hit a fly ball to right that B.J. Surhoff dropped,
allowing Payton to score, and Bobby Kielty followed with an RBI
single. Nick Swisher made the first out of the inning on a grounder
before Jason Kendall hit a sacrifice fly to make it 8-0.

"When we were going through that rough streak of losing those
games, we weren't scoring for the first five innings," Macha said.
"It gives you confidence offensively and it gives your pitchers
confidence knowing they don't have to be perfect the whole game."

Oakland added two runs in the fourth when Johnson hit a
run-scoring double and scored on a single by Ellis.

Mora hit his 17th homer leading off the bottom half. It was his
first home run in 36 games since July 15.

Ellis homered in the sixth after Payton's fourth single of the
game to make it 12-1.

Baltimore's Luis Matos hit an RBI double and scored on a single
by Sal Fasano in the seventh.

Game notes
Chavez went 1-for-4 and is two hits shy of 1,000 for his
career. ... DuBose has yielded nine runs and 14 hits over four
innings in his last two starts. ... Oakland is 16-3 in its last 19
road games.