Haren cruises, A's go on hit parade
Six-run first inning helps end three-game slide
OAKLAND - Eric Chavez celebrated his Bobblehead Day with a blast. Mark Ellis and Travis Buck joined the celebration with shots of their own, and everybody associated with the Oakland Athletics had a grand old time of it on a summer-like Saturday afternoon at the ballpark.The A's scored six runs in the first inning, making it easy on pitching ace Dan Haren, in a 12-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The win snaps Oakland's three-game losing streak and may serve as a catalyst to an otherwise anemic offense. The 11-hit outburst bumped the A's average to .229 for the month, already one of the lowest in the major leagues and what would still be the lowest month for the A's since June of 1982. "I think we're very streaky," said A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, who lashed a two-strike, two-out, run-scoring single in the first which jump-started the early fireworks. "It seems like we all hit together or we don't hit at all. That's not always good. But when you see guys start to get a knock here or there, getting something going, guys get confident and that's how rallies start against any kind of pitching." It was the first time Oakland scored more than five runs in a home game this year, and the 12 runs were two more than the A's had scored in five previous home games combined. Haren, who lost his first two starts of the season despite allowing one earned run in 13 innings, was the beneficiary of the offensive production. He wound up allowing two earned runs on a season-high seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter. He has coughed up a single walk over his past 21 1/3 innings. "Any time you get first-inning runs it's nice," Haren said. "It's lucky but I've had my share of unlucky too. When you get a 6-0 lead it's all about throwing strikes. I figured if I kept making quality pitches and didn't walk anybody, I had a good chance to win the game>" Oakland ended its longest losing streak in nearly a year by getting key hits. The A's were 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position. "It's a weird thing about baseball," Ellis said. "Hitting is very contagious. When you see someone square the ball up it gives guys a lot of confidence. You're seeing other guys hitting the ball well, and you say, 'oh yeah, I can do that.' Hopefully this will get us going a little bit." For Ellis, who went 2-for-3 including his first home run of the season, seeing the Devil Rays pitching staff is a cure in itself. His .351 batting average against them is his best against any American League team. The home run, a solo shot leading off the fifth, was the 40th of his career. That's a milestone of sorts for the native South Dakotan. He has the most homers by anyone born in the state, eight ahead of Dave Collins, who last played in 1990 and hit his last home run in 1986. Everybody in the Oakland starting lineup had a hit, drove in a run or scored a run. Jason Kendall was the lone hitless A's player, but he walked twice, scored a run and guided Haren to his third consecutive victory. With Shannon Stewart standing on second and Mike Piazza on first with two outs in the opening frame, it nearly looked like Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum was ready to get out of the jam without any damage. But Crosby's hit opened the floodgates and the runs poured out unhindered. Dan Johnson had a two-run single in the inning and Buck finished it off with a three-run home run, ending a personal 0-for-16 streak. "I'm just trying to put the ball in play, thats the first key with two strikes," Crosby said. "To get a hit there and get something started, that was big." Crosby also said that seeing Chavez, one of the team leaders, starting to connect was also important. "You can see that he's starting to be right on pitches," he said. "He's locked in and when that happens, he can hit with the best of them." Chavez kept nodding his head (like his bobblehead) while talking about how close he is to getting tuned in. "I've really felt good most of the month," he said. "It just seems I was a little off. I'm seeing the ball better and I'm starting to lift the ball. That's a good sign." Piazza, Chavez and Ellis each had two hits. Stewart was on base three times. Bobby Kielty, who singled in the second, was taken out of the game an inning later because he felt a twinge in his sore calf. His status is day-to-day. As for that bobblehead, which honored Chavez's Gold Glove Award, he said it was the best one yet.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.