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Zito dominates as Thomas, A's shut out Twins

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Barry Zito and Boof Bonser sped through
two outstanding performances -- and Zito was about three pitches
better than the Minnesota rookie.

Zito allowed four hits over seven innings in another strong
start at the Coliseum, outdueling Bonser in the Oakland Athletics'
4-0 victory over the Twins on Thursday night to win a game that
didn't even last 2 hours.

Bonser also pitched seven standout innings in just his third
career start, but his three big mistakes all ended up in the seats.
Frank Thomas hit his 460th career homer in the second inning, while
Mark Kotsay and Dan Johnson also connected in the A's second
straight shutout victory after losing 10 of their previous 11
games.

Bonser, who's still adjusting to the big leagues after his
callup from Triple-A Rochester on May 17, couldn't be terribly
frustrated by his first major league loss. But he also couldn't
match Zito's near-perfect form in a 117-minute game.

"I made some bad pitches," Bonser said. "That's why they're
big league hitters. I think for me, it was still a big step in the
right direction. ... I wasn't as nervous as I had been in my last
two starts, (but) it felt like I was out there forever."

Oakland managed to stay in second place in the AL West despite
its injury-fueled tailspin, and Zito was formidable in the opener
of a four-game series against the Twins, who lost for the third
time in four games. In fact, it was a blueprint win for the A's: a
dominant start bolstered by power hitting and strong relief
pitching.

Zito (5-3) was pounded in his first two home starts this season,
but has allowed just two runs in 28 innings during his last four
appearances at the Coliseum, where he routinely dominated opponents
early in his major league career.

Zito feels he's near the top of his game, and he gives much of
the credit to catcher Jason Kendall.

"It's a familiar feeling, but I've (had) it in spurts this
season," Zito said. "Me and Kendall are just locked in out there.
He's so great at having a feel for hitters. I couldn't do what I'm
doing without him."

In his 200th career start, Zito got the 1,000th strikeout of his
career in the sixth inning, fanning Lew Ford. He struck out five
and didn't walk a batter in his third straight victory, giving way
to Kiko Calero before the eighth.

Bonser (1-1), a former San Francisco Giants first-round draft
pick, yielded five hits and struck out five. Oakland manager Ken
Macha called him "a straight throwing machine."

"He pitched really well, and we're happy with Bons," Twins
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was just going up against Zito,
who didn't let us breathe at all."

The Twins were inept offensively, failing to get a runner to
third base in their seventh shutout loss of the season. Joe Mauer
got two of the Twins' five hits, improving his average to .511
during his 11-game hitting streak.

Thomas provided the only run by either team over the first five
innings, homering deep into the left-field stands high above the
scoreboard. Thomas has 12 homers and an on-base percentage above
.500 in limited action during his first season with Oakland, but
his batting average (.229) has been one of the AL's lowest.

But the longtime White Sox first baseman still has the stroke
against the Twins: He has 46 career homers against Minnesota, more
than any player except Reggie Jackson (51).

"I think I'm starting to come around," Thomas said. "I had so
much bad luck the first month that I think it's time for something
good."

Kotsay added a two-run shot to right in the sixth, temporarily
stopping a lengthy slump for the A's center fielder. Johnson, a
Minnesota native, put a solo shot in nearly the same spot one
inning later, stemming his own slump.

Game notes
Thomas trails Jose Canseco by two homers for 26th place on
baseball's career list. He also got the 1,494th RBI of his career,
moving past Dave Parker for 45th place. ... The Twins plan to
recall INF Terry Tiffee from Triple-A Rochester on Friday to
replace struggling No. 5 starter Scott Baker, sent to Rochester on
Tuesday. ... Zito is the eighth pitcher in A's history with 1,000
strikeouts. ... It was Macha's 300th win with the A's and he trails
franchise leader Connie Mack by just 3,327. ... Kotsay's homer was
the 100th of his career.