Kielty paces fifth straight win

Kielty paces fifth straight win

OAKLAND -- Bobby Kielty called them a good job of sticking to his game plan. Ken Macha called them the two most important at-bats of the game. And Barry Zito called them a welcome surprise.

No matter how you slice it, Kielty's two two-run doubles Tuesday night were the spark that the Athletics needed to beat the Mariners, 8-1, and extend their season-high winning streak to five games.

Kielty's first double came in the first inning. With a full count and two speedy runners aboard -- Mark Kotsay and Bobby Crosby, who both walked to reach base -- Kielty lifted Jamie Moyer's offering to right-center field. The hit gave the A's a 2-1 lead after they had fallen behind in the top half of the inning on Ichiro Suzuki's leadoff home run.

Three innings later, the A's left fielder drove another full-count Moyer pitch down the right-field line, this time scoring Crosby (who again walked) and Eric Chavez. This double was the icing on a four-run rally that ended Moyer's night and allowed Zito to coast to his fourth win of the season.

"In Seattle, [Moyer] made me think in and I had some bad at-bats," explained Kielty, who is batting .377 against lefties this season. "So even though he does throw inside, I told myself to keep looking outside and it really helped me out, especially in the first double I hit. I would have rolled that over in Seattle, but I really forced myself to keep it going the other way."

Zito was more than gracious to accept the offensive support, and it was long overdue. The A's lefty has received more than three runs in just seven of his 17 starts this year. It has started to come around for him, though. The A's have averaged six runs of support in his last six starts.

"It was nice and I wasn't expecting it," Zito said happily after the game. "Usually when you go out and score 16 [Sunday against the Giants], you don't come back and do it again, but the team came out swinging the bats good today."

Zito is now 9-2 against the Mariners in his career. He showed why Tuesday by allowing just one run and six hits while pitching with a substantial lead for most of the night.

Good performances by starters have become the rule for the A's recently. In its last 10 games, Oakland's starters are 9-0 with a 1.33 ERA. No starter has given up more than three runs in that stretch and the starters have thrown at least seven innings in each of the past six games.

Manager Ken Macha credits pitching coach Curt Young, who has produced steady progress from his young staff. He has also helped the pitchers make some subtle adjustments that have started to pay dividends.

A perfect example is Zito, who has added a slider to his repertoire of pitches. It was one of the pitches Zito claimed to have good control of in the game and he also said that he changed the grip on his changeup a little. That was the pitch he claimed was most effective Tuesday.

Macha also credits his offense for the suddenly brilliant pitching of his team.

As the A's manager explained, "If your starters aren't getting any wins, that means your offense isn't scoring any runs."

Kielty's hits were the biggest, but it was the batters in front of him made it possible for him to record his season high of four RBIs. The A's first four batters -- Jason Kendall, Kotsay, Crosby and Chavez -- combined to reach base 15 times and score seven of the team's eight runs.

"Our pitchers are doing awesome and as an offensive team, if you look at our guys, it was just a matter of time until they started to pick it up," said Kielty. "If you look at the track record up and down our lineup, our offense can really play."

The A's are on a roll right now, winning 16 of their last 20 home games and nine of their past 10 overall. And with performances like Kielty and Zito's Tuesday, it figures that they can only gain momentum.

CJ Bowles is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.