<
>

Blanton wins third straight; A's retake AL West lead

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Eric Chavez celebrated hitting into a
double play.

The sound of the ball leaving his bat in the second inning
showed the Oakland star he is finally making strides at the plate
after a monthlong struggle to hit because of tendinitis in both
arms.

Chavez had more reason to be thrilled later.

He hit a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth inning to help Joe
Blanton win his third straight start, and the Athletics beat the
Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 on Thursday night.

"It's good. I'm almost a week away," Chavez said of fully
regaining his stroke. "Even the first ball I hit into the double
play was encouraging to me. I really don't look for results. I look
for feel."

Jay Payton homered and singled in a run and Marco Scutaro added
a sacrifice fly as the A's moved a half-game ahead of the idle Los
Angeles Angels at the top of the AL West.

Oakland won its second straight after snapping a three-game
losing streak and season-high five-game skid at home with
Wednesday's 5-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox to avoid a
three-game sweep.

Blanton (11-8) pitched seven strong innings to win for the
fourth time in five starts and improved to 3-0 since the All-Star
break. He didn't allow a hit until No. 9 hitter John McDonald's
two-out single in the third.

Troy Glaus doubled and drove in two runs for the Blue Jays, who
began the second stop of their 10-game, 11-day trip by losing for
the third time in four games. Oakland lost two of three in Toronto
from May 9-11.

"It was one of those tight games and it's kind of been our
track record this year," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
"Low-scoring games, we haven't won a lot of them."

Frank Thomas, who homered twice Wednesday to give him 470 for
his career, started the sixth with a rare double, then Nick Swisher
walked one out later. Chavez followed with a single to center to
score two runs and chase Toronto starter Ted Lilly (9-9).

Chavez, who has missed nine of the last 24 games with the
injury, had his first multi-RBI game since June 16 against the
Dodgers. He is batting .193 during that span.

"The really big hit was Chavy driving the ball up the middle --
nice sound off his bat," manager Ken Macha said. "Chavy's been
out there swinging with sore arms the whole time."

Lilly, who has allowed one or fewer home runs in each of his
last eight outings, hasn't won in Oakland since Sept. 21, 2003, as
a member of the A's in a 12-0 victory over Seattle. He faced
Blanton the last time he pitched at the Coliseum, losing 5-2 to the
A's on June 4, 2005.

"The way I was pitching I was lucky I didn't give up more
runs," Lilly said. "Going out there and performing like that
bothers me. I don't think that's going to go away any time soon.
I'm looking forward to getting out there again, that's for sure."

Blanton allowed two runs and five hits, struck out four and
walked one. Huston Street recorded the final three outs for his
21st save in 27 chances and hasn't allowed a run in 12 2-3 innings
over his last 13 appearances.

Street, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, converted his 44th
save to tie him with Billy Koch for sixth place on the A's all-time
list.

After Blanton plunked cleanup hitter Glaus leading off the
second, Lilly did the same to A's cleanup hitter Thomas to start
the bottom half of the inning -- and both benches were warned by
plate umpire Jeff Nelson.

Glaus drove in a run on a fielder's choice in the fourth for
Toronto, then Oakland tied it in the bottom half on Payton's shot
to left, his sixth homer of the season.

That ended an 0-for-13 stretch for Payton.

"I'm just trying to hit and do what I can," he said. "The
last few games have been rough. I was being too aggressive. I tried
to slow things down."

Vernon Wells extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a
fourth-inning double. He also was back in center field. The
All-Star was the designated hitter Wednesday at Seattle after
missing two games with a sore back.

Wells is batting .412 (21-for-51) during his hitting streak.

Game notes
After the game, the Blue Jays outrighted OF Chad Mottola to
Triple-A Syracuse to make room for Alex Rios' return Friday.
Toronto is bringing up RHP Dustin McGowan from Syracuse to start
sometime this weekend. ... Lilly, who was just the 22nd left-handed
starter Oakland has faced this year, allowed four runs and five
hits in 5 1-3 innings, struck out four and walked four. ... After
Blanton went 4-5 over his first 10 starts, he is 7-3 over his last
11 outings. ... The A's placed LHP Scott Sauerbeck on the 15-day DL
with a strained right groin and recalled LHP Ron Flores from
Triple-A Sacramento to fill the roster spot. ... Blue Jays RHP
Jeremy Accardo, traded by San Francisco last week, pitched in the
seventh in his first return trip to the Bay Area.