A's finish July a sweeping success

A's finish July a sweeping success

OAKLAND --­ In the ninth inning Sunday, most of the 30,031 fans at McAfee Coliseum were chanting, "Saarloos, Saarloos."

"That was cool, I never had that," said the A's hero of the day. "I wish it would have ended a little better, but a win's a win."

Oakland starter Kirk Saarloos had little to complain about after going the distance in a 5-2 win that allowed the A's to complete a three-game sweep of the Tigers.

Oakland has now won four straight and 10 of the last 11 to move within 1 1/2 games of the AL West-leading Angels.

The A's also stay 1 1/2 games up on the Yankees in the Wild Card chase after New York beat the Angels on Sunday.

For Saarloos, the only blemish on the day was Magglio Ordonez's two-run homer on a full count with two out in the final inning to spoil what would have been the 26-year-old righty's second shutout this year.

"I didn¹t want to walk him," Saarloos said. "I told myself if he's going to do do it, he's going to beat you, and he beat me.

"I threw a fastball right down the middle, belt-high, and he's a good hitter and hit a home run."

Saarloos threw 100 other pitches against the Tigers, none of them with that sort of result.

Facing a Detroit batting order that is second in the AL in hitting and leading the circuit with a .300 average for July, Saarloos gave up just one walk and scattered seven hits while striking out two.

"You saw the number of runs they put up against [Rich Harden] and [Barry Zito] the last couple of days," manager Ken Macha said, referring to the Tigers putting nine on the board against the A's top two starters this weekend.

"[Saarloos'] command, his movement, his ability to change speeds on his cutter and put it on both sides of the plate kept them off balance."

"I was trying to be down in the zone and use their aggressiveness to their disadvantage," Saarloos said. "The last few months, we were throwing a lot more cutters and then throwing the sinker off that. Today we were kind of the opposite.

"With them being such an aggressive ballclub, hopefully I can keep the ball down and they'll put a lot of balls in the dirt and get out early in the count."

The plan worked amazingly well. Saarloos needed just six pitches to get out of the second, eight pitches to get out of the sixth and five more to get out of the seventh.

He also got plenty of help from a pair of unusual double plays.

After Dmitri Young led off the fifth inning with a single, Pudge Rodriguez hit a sinking liner to right. Nick Swisher came charging in and dove for the ball, but it fell out of his glove when he hit the ground.

Swisher jumped up and fired to shortstop Bobby Crosby covering second to retire Young, who had retreated to first thinking the ball would be caught. Rodriguez evidently thought the same thing, because he stopped running after Swisher got to the ball, so Crosby's throw to first base completed a 9-6-3 double play.

"I didn't see the ball drop to the ground," Rodriguez said. "The umpire just raised his hands and I stopped. I saw the ball in his glove. I thought it was caught."

Even Swisher said he wasn't entirely sure what was going on.

"I've never seen it happen before," Swisher said. "I just picked it up and instinct told me to throw to second."

The next inning, the Tigers put runners on the corners with no outs when Carlos Guillen lined out to Dan Johnson, who was one step away from the bag when he caught the ball and doubled off the runner at first.

"There were some interesting double plays," Saarloos said. "I was thinking before Pudge hit that ball, 'A double play would be good here.'

"I didn¹t know it was going to be that kind of double play, but it was definitely a big help."

Swisher was also a big help at the plate. Oakland already had a 1-0 lead on Eric Chavez's RBI double in the first off Jeremy Bonderman (13-7) when Swisher tattooed a second-inning Bonderman fastball deep off the facing of the second deck down the right-field line.

The shot was Swisher's 15th homer of the year, tops among AL rookies, but Macha was more impressed with Swisher's second at-bat, which came in the fourth inning with two outs and the bases loaded.

Swisher fell behind 1-2 to Bonderman, but fouled off a couple pitches before working his way to an RBI walk.

"Some of the games when I've had a good first at-bat, I haven't done much the rest of the game, and maybe it's because I'm trying to do too much or trying to hit it farther," Swisher said. "It's exciting to have a good at-bat like that, especially against a good pitcher like that."

The A's added another run in the sixth and a final one in the eighth when Jay Payton homered for the second time in two days and the fifth time in 13 games since the A's traded for him during the All-Star break.

"It was like water torture today, one run an inning," Macha said.

But by the time Payton hit his home run, the only suspense left was whether Saarloos would get his shutout, which didn't quite work out.

"It's like kissing your sister, but at the same time, nine innings, two runs and we win -- you can¹t complain about it," Saarloos said.

Now the A's will try to ride the momentum of a 5-1 homestand into Minnesota, where the team will be without the fans that Macha said have given his club a big boost of late.

The manager mentioned the curtain call for Payton after Saturday's grand slam, then said, "They did what they did today -- that was pretty cool there in the ninth inning cheering Saarloos.

"The fans are into what's going on, and it's a lot of fun."

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