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BOS@OAK: Anderson fans eight over eight scoreless

OAKLAND -- In early July 2009, Brett Anderson was merely a 21-year-old rookie with 14 Major League starts to his name when he silenced a rowdy Fenway crowd by way of a shutout over a Red Sox team that ultimately won 95 games.

Two years and 38 starts later, Anderson is no rookie. But he's still a 20-something with a flair for shutting down Boston.

On Tuesday, facing the Red Sox for the sixth time in his career and entering the contest having held them to a .205 batting average, Anderson stifled their starting nine, limiting them to four hits in eight innings while halting their season-high three-game winning streak in a 5-0 Oakland victory.

The A's southpaw is now 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA against Boston, and he insists that, aside from the usually vibrant atmosphere surrounding Red Sox matchups, there's really no rhyme or reason to those numbers.

"Pretty good crowd tonight, I think that had to factor into it," he said. "It's kinda different, kinda like pitching in Boston almost, pitching in a big environment. Their lineup's pretty potent one through nine, and I've just happened to have success."

Boston moved to a 0-7 road mark for the first time in franchise history. The A's, meanwhile, jumped above the .500 mark for the first time this season and have now watched their starters surrender just one earned run over the past 33 2/3 innings.

"What can you say, man?" said Daric Barton. "The pitching's unbelievable. I think we're in it every game. There hasn't been a game where our pitching staff hasn't kept us in it, and our offense is coming around and we're playing well as a team. Obviously our staff is our strength right now."

"It's fun when we're going good like that because you want to feed off each other," Anderson said. "You want to go out there and put up as many zeros as the next guy and do your part in the rotation."

The A's hurler appeared geared for yet another shutout -- it would have marked just the second of his career -- when he entered the eighth with just 82 pitches under his belt. But a 27-pitch frame, which included two baserunners, put an end to that conquest, as he ultimately tallied 109 pitches.

Still, the preceding innings in that journey were enough to elicit loud remarks -- not from the bats of his opponents but rather their mouths.

"That kid's got good stuff," said Boston starter John Lackey, who battled Anderson for six innings. "Even when I was over here [in the American League West with the Angels] facing him a few times, you could tell early on when he came up, he's got a nice arm, a real good feel for pitching. He pitched well tonight.

"He gets to two strikes and he finishes off with breaking balls that are really good. So many times you watch the game on TV, it looks easy. There was just so much finish to it, they were in and out of the zone. Guys just couldn't lay off."

That put-away pitch has undergone a makeover since Anderson blanked the Red Sox in their home park two years ago and, as a result, has become twice as devastating.

"When you talk about the biggest differences from two years ago, he developed a better changeup and he has two different speeds on his breaking ball now and has more control of his fastball," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He's so tough now with those two speeds on that ball. As well as he pitched a couple years ago, he's better now than he was then."

"That's his pitch," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Seems like it's untouchable."

Anderson's strong showing culminated in his first win of the season, as he lowered not only his own ERA to 1.63 but the A's starters' mark to 2.01. He struck out eight, walked just one and has now offered up just three free passes through his first four starts.

His mastery over Boston's compelling, albeit struggling, lineup was on display from the get-go, as he surrendered a two-out single to Adrian Gonzalez in the first before retiring six straight and facing just three over the minimum through eight frames.

Lackey, owner of a 17-5 record and 2.90 ERA in 31 starts against the A's before Tuesday, quickly surrendered a run in the first via a groundout from David DeJesus that scored Coco Crisp, who led off with a base hit, stole second and advanced to third on a grounder.

From that point on, though, Lackey proceeded to engage Anderson in a pitchers' duel for the next five innings. Overall, the Red Sox's righty gave up just three hits and fanned three over six frames while dropping to 1-2 on the season.

"A lot of curveballs, a lot of offspeed stuff," Barton said. "He threw a great game, too. He settled down after the first."

Barton's RBI single, Hideki Matsui's two-run double and Kurt Suzuki's run-scoring base hit -- all in the eighth -- showcased a welcoming offensive outburst and more than enough cushion for Oakland's eighth win in its last 12 games, sealed courtesy of a scoreless ninth from the left-handed duo of Craig Breslow and Brian Fuentes.

"It seemed like the first seven innings took an hour and a half, and the eighth inning was an hour itself," Anderson said. "It'd be nice to take the pressure off a little earlier, but any runs we can get, the more the merrier."

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