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Monday, April 10, 2006

Oakland A's Top Seattle Mariners 6-4

A's nearly throw lead away but hang on to top Mariners
By Joe Roderick
Knight Ridder
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SEATTLE - Oh sure, there was some good-natured ribbing going on among relievers Justin Duchscherer and Huston Street in the afterglow of the A's 6-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.

But no one found any humor -- at least not those wearing green and gold -- when Street's underhand lob in the ninth inning to Nick Swisher was high, pulling the first baseman off the base and prolonging a game that was quickly becoming a slapstick routine.

``It wasn't very comfortable sitting on the bench that last out,'' Manager Ken Macha said.

Street, after his miscue, induced Jose Lopez to ground out to shortstop Bobby Crosby, mercifully ending this one. It was remarkable that the game came down to the wire after the A's took a 6-0 lead into the eighth, with starter Rich Harden having allowed just two hits.

With an absence of the customary postgame music -- players were riveted to the Masters on the big screen -- reporters approached Street, who first had to hear it from his buddy and fellow reliever.

``Softball, underhanded lollygagging,'' is what Duchscherer called Street's toss on a smash hit by Ichiro Suzuki. ``We get on Huston, but he knows we're just joking. He always does that when he fields a ball. Ichiro's speed might have shocked him.''

Actually, replays showed Swisher touched the base a split-second before Suzuki. The two then collided, bringing the potential go-ahead run, in Lopez, to the plate.

``It looked ugly,'' Macha said. ``He's got to get his feet under him. He ran halfway over there and threw a grenade.''

Said Street, ``I like to run the ball over there. I thought I had more time. I didn't realize how fast Ichiro is. He hit the ball hard and I still didn't have time.''

The way Harden was comporting himself, Street -- and everyone else at Safeco Field -- thought he wouldn't get anywhere near the mound.

``I think the gun here is off,'' Street said. ``He was throwing a lot harder than that.''

When told Harden was touching 97 mph on the scoreboard clock, Street said, ``Those were probably 100.''

Harden retired the first 14 batters before Adrian Beltre singled to left-center with two out in the fifth. He allowed a seventh-inning double to Richie Sexson, then Beltre walked and Jeremy Reed singled to begin the eighth. As Harden said, ``I was out of gas.''

The A's streak of 27 scoreless innings -- two away from tying the team's second-longest stretch -- was intact until Duchscherer hit Lopez on a 1-2 count with the bases loaded in the eighth. (The club record of 37 consecutive scoreless innings was set in 1983.)

``I didn't want to be the guy to end the consecutive-shutout streak,'' Duchscherer said. ``I threw him a front-door slider and it stayed in and hit him on the elbow.''

Harden wouldn't allow thoughts of a no-hitter to seep into his conscience.

``If you start thinking about that stuff out there you're going to try to change,'' he said. ``You have to keep doing what you're doing and not change. I didn't think about it.''

The A's scraped together enough runs, though the lead was precarious at the end. Mark Ellis, who was hitting .158 and had Saturday off, returned to leadoff and went 3 for 4.

Eric Chavez gave the A's a six-run lead with a seventh-inning home run, his third in seven games. Chavez didn't hit his third homer last season until May 17.


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