10/02/2003 5:14 PM ET
A's find offense in unlikely places
Sluggers struggling, but club holds 2-0 series lead
OAKLAND -- The 3-4-5 hitters are batting .071. The bullpen already has a blown save.
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
And the Oakland A's have a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series anyway.
Is it over?
Are you kidding?
"We're not going to let down. We're not going to look past them," said third baseman Eric Chavez after Thursday's 5-1 win. "They're too good a team."
Are they good enough to duplicate the comeback of the 2001 New York Yankees? The A's won the first two games on the road against the Yankees in the 2001 ALDS. Oakland didn't win another game until 2002.
"That's in the past," insisted shortstop Miguel Tejada. "That's over. We just have to think about winning one game. There's no need to think about the past. We just can't let those guys wake up. They're good enough to come back."
The Red Sox weren't good enough to come back Thursday after self-destructing in a five-run second inning that provided A's starter Barry Zito all the cushion he needed in the A's 5-1 victory.
The A's scored five runs with only two hits, and the biggest of them probably should have been caught. Between Boston starter Tim Wakefield's wild knuckleballs and his defense's wild play behind him, all the A's had to do was stay out of the way and keep running until they scored.
With Zito defusing the most explosive offense in the league, the A's capitalized on Boston mistakes and made sure they didn't make any of their own.
"We took the game to them," said first baseman Scott Hatteberg. "We're doing all the little things right. We're putting pressure on them, surprising them. We're not being stupid about it, but we're taking everything the opposition gives us."
As a result, Chavez, Tejada and Hatteberg are a combined 2-for-28 in the heart of the order and nobody is pointing fingers. They got a game-winning bunt from catcher Ramon Hernandez in Game 1 and a two-run double from Eric Byrnes, the No. 9 hitter who went through a 20-game stretch this summer hitting .095.
"Obviously, if we weren't 2-0, we'd be more under the microscope," said Chavez, 0-for-10 so far in the series. "But we're flying high, and I really don't care what the averages look like. We're doing what you have to do to win. I think I'm an offensive-minded person. But defense matters now."
The winning rally started with a one-out walk to Jose Guillen, who took second on catcher Doug Mirabelli's passed ball. With Guillen breaking for third, Wednesday night hero Ramon Hernandez singled home the first run. Jermaine Dye was grazed by a Wakefield knuckler, bringing up Byrnes.
Byrnes sent a solidly struck fly ball to left field, where Manny Ramirez had a difficult time first tracking the ball in the sun as it sailed over his head, retrieving it as it bounced around the warning track while two runs scored.
"It was tough to see out there," said Guillen, the A's left fielder.
Wakefield walked Mark Ellis, then got a huge out when Erubiel Durazo bounced to first. Chavez sent a sharp bouncer to second baseman Todd Walker, who knocked the ball down, but threw wildly to first, allowing two unearned runs to score.
"You can't kick the ball around," said Hatteberg. "You have to make plays. When you are able to get outs, you've got to get them. You can't be giving them extra outs, because a team like that can bite you."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This article was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.