<
>

Blanton picks up third straight win

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Mark Ellis and Jason Kendall reached base
a combined eight times from the top two spots in Oakland's batting
order. Mark Kotsay got aboard three times in the third hole.

Everyone on the Athletics acknowledges such production high in
the lineup only leads to success all the way down, which this club
will certainly need as it makes a push for the playoffs.

"That's why they're up there," manager Ken Macha said.

Joe Blanton won his third straight start, Kendall drove in three
runs to match his season high and the A's beat the Minnesota Twins
8-3 on Tuesday night for their third consecutive victory.

Ellis added a two-run single for the A's, who remained 1½ games
behind AL West-leading Los Angeles after the Angels held on for a
2-1 win over Texas. Ellis has been Oakland's most dangerous hitter
lately, and he followed consecutive three-hit games with another
big night.

"It's the same exact approach I've been doing all year," said
Ellis, who missed the 2004 season with a shoulder injury. "It's
been crunch time for a while now. You go to every stadium in the
big leagues and you're going to see scores. You can't help but see
the scoreboard. We worry about ourselves."

Nick Swisher homered leading off the sixth for his 20th of the
season and Kotsay added an RBI double and a run-scoring single.
Kendall finished with three hits, including an RBI double, in a
game that started 11 minutes late because of a light rain that
required a tarp to be pulled across the field more than an hour
before the first pitch.

Even another chase for the playoffs by the low-budget A's hasn't
seemed to bring more excitement to the Coliseum, which had another
poor night at the gates. The game drew 18,014, a night after 15,262
came out as the A's began a 10-game homestand to conclude their
home schedule. Oakland missed the postseason last year for the
first time in five years.

Blanton (11-11), who beat Boston's Curt Schilling last Thursday
at Fenway Park, allowed more than two runs for only the second time
in 12 starts. Jacque Jones hit a two-run homer with none out in the
sixth, but Blanton got out of the inning without further damage and
that was it for him after 103 pitches.

"I didn't have very good stuff tonight," he said. "I was
falling behind."

The rookie allowed three runs and five hits, struck out two and
walked three. The burly right-hander also defeated the Twins on
Aug. 1 with seven sharp innings.

Francisco Liriano (0-1) didn't last long in his second career
start and fourth appearance overall.

The 21-year-old left-hander and former San Francisco Giants
prospect allowed a leadoff walk to Ellis followed by Kendall's RBI
double, then retired seven straight before running into trouble.

The Twins acquired Liriano from the Giants in a trade that sent
catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco before the 2004 season and
also brought closer Joe Nathan to Minnesota.

The A's loaded the bases in the fourth after Jay Payton and
Scott Hatteberg walked and Hiram Bocachica reached on an infield
single. After Swisher and Marco Scutaro struck out, Ellis hit a
two-run single that chased Liriano, and Kendall followed with his
own two-run single.

"I threw a good pitch [to Ellis] and he hit it," Liriano said.
"That's what I wanted to throw him."

Jones hit his 22nd homer in the sixth and Justin Morneau had an
RBI double in the fourth for the Twins, who lost for the 10th time
in 14 games. They dropped the series opener 7-6 Monday after
rallying for five runs in the ninth.

"That was a real bad baseball game by our baseball team,"
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Missing cutoff men, missing
plays, you can go all over the field. That was real disappointing.
You can't just play baseball like that. It isn't taught around
here."

Game notes
Ellis is batting .522 (12-for-23) during a five-game
hitting streak. ... Shannon Stewart's left shoulder causes him so
much pain he is unlikely to play again this season. Stewart met
with Gardenhire before the game and they decided the Twins left
fielder won't play again in 2005 unless Stewart decides his
shoulder improves enough that he wants to test it again in a game.
... A's SS Bobby Crosby was held out of the lineup after landing
hard on his fractured left ankle Monday night only hours after
being activated from the 15-day DL. "It's sore, but I'll be in
there tomorrow," Crosby said. ... Matthew LeCroy was held out of
the Twins' lineup with a sore right big toe. ... Longtime A's PA
announcer Roy Steele, with the club since it moved from Kansas City
in 1968, missed his second straight game with a throat illness.