Duchscherer can't hold on for A's

Duchscherer can't hold on for A's

OAKLAND -- A's lefty Barry Zito held the visiting Tigers to three hits over seven strong innings Thursday in the finale of a three-game set at McAfee Coliseum, but all it got him was a lower ERA for the year.

With closer Huston Street unavailable with a sore right pectoral muscle, right-hander Justin Duchscherer, an All-Star setup man in 2005, gave up three runs on four hits and two walks in the ninth as Detroit pulled off a stunning 4-3 victory.

"I just didn't make good pitches," said Duchscherer, who recorded five saves as an emergency closer last season. "My cutter was running back over the plate and they made me pay."

Oakland loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but was unable to capitalize and fell to 7-9 on the year. However, it's still early enough to shrug off a slow start. Not so easy to minimize is the prospect of losing Street, the 2005 American league Rookie of the Year, for an extended period of time.

"Street's obviously a key factor on our club," said Zito, who was stuck with a tough no-decision. "We've just gotta stick it out for the time being, because if we rush him back, the consequences could be unbearable."

A's manager Ken Macha and athletic trainer Larry Davis said Street will have Friday off to rest and might be available by the weekend, but Street, who first felt the injury while picking up his fourth save of the season Tuesday night, didn't sound as confident.

"That's really gonna be a day-to-day call," he said. "We're being very cautious right now."

Zito (2-2), who gave up five runs in the first four innings of a loss to the Rangers in his previous start, surrendered a run in the first inning Thursday but nothing thereafter. Duchscherer's disaster, however, dropped the A's a game behind the first-place Angels in the American League West standings, and he took full responsibility for the loss.

"The ninth inning, the closer, that gets all the attention, but I've come into one-run games in the eighth inning and gotten it done, and the ninth is no different," he said. "The game's on the line from the sixth inning on. ... They just beat me today."

The Tigers opened the scoring in the top of the first when Placido Polanco singled with one out, took second base on a fielder's choice and scored on a double by Magglio Ordonez, but the A's answered right back and took the lead in their half of the frame.

Mark Kotsay, who entered the game mired in a 6-for-31 (.194) slump, got things going with a triple to left-center field off former A's farmhand Jeremy Bonderman. Bobby Crosby, who was caught in a 4-for-23 (.174) slide, followed with an RBI single to center, and scored from first on Eric Chavez's double to right-center. Milton Bradley, one of the few A's on a hot streak of late, blooped a two-out single to right to make it 3-1.

Zito, whose four walks, two hit batters and a balk were offset by double-play balls in the second, fourth and fifth innings, held the Tigers in check for the next six innings, and he saved his best work for the sixth and seventh.

With runners at the corners with one out in the sixth, Zito got Ordonez on a soft liner to second baseman Mark Ellis, and retired Marcus Thames on a popup to end the inning. Two of his three strikeouts came in the seventh, the third coming on his 100th and final pitch of the day.

"I thought his fastball command was below-average," Macha said of Zito, who threw 51 strikes, "but he got a lot of outs with his changeup and made some pitches when he had to."

"We're not the kind of team that's going to come in here tomorrow and think about today. We'll put this behind us, rally around each other and get after it hard for nine more innings."
-- Barry Zito

Said Zito of his changeup: "It's probably my most important pitch."

Lefty Joe Kennedy and righty Kiko Calero teamed up to work a perfect eighth for Oakland, but Duchscherer ran into immediate trouble in the ninth, allowing hits to the first four batters he faced. Ordonez led off with an infield single, pinch hitter Alexis Gomez followed with a double, Chris Shelton cut the lead in half with a single to left, and Guillen tied it up with a single to right.

Duchscherer foiled Craig Monroe's sacrifice attempt by picking up the bunt and nailing the lead runner at third base for the first out of the inning, but Brandon Inge worked a 15-pitch walk -- the 14th, on which Inge was determined by the umpires to have checked his swing, was hotly contested by the A's -- to load the bases.

"He definitely got Inge out," Street said.

"I thought he went [around]," Macha added. "What I think doesn't count."

"I watched the tape. He swung. It should have been strike three," Duchscherer said. "But I had a chance to make another pitch with the 3-2 curveball and I didn't make it."

Duchscherer then walked Curtis Granderson to give Detroit the lead and earn a long, lonely trip back to the A's dugout, before righty Kirk Saarloos took over and got out of the mess with a forceout at the plate and a flyout to left.

Street was quick to jump to Duchscherer's defense.

"Personally, I want to be the guy to get the job done [in the ninth], but we've got a lot of confidence in anyone we put out there," he said. "You saw what Duchscherer did last year. He can do this job, too."

Not Thursday, though, and given a chance to get Duchscherer off the hook, the A's offense didn't get that job done, either.

Chavez got the crowd of 15,489 back into it by drawing a four-pitch leadoff walk off righty Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth, and after Frank Thomas flew out to center, Bradley smoked a single to right to put runners at the corners before Rodney walked Nick Swisher to juice the bags.

Jason Kendall then bounced into a force at home before pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse struck out to end it.

"It's a tough loss. I definitely thought we were gonna pick Duke up there in the ninth," Zito said. "But hey, this is a hard game, even when you win. We're not the kind of team that's going to come in here tomorrow and think about today. We'll put this behind us, rally around each other and get after it hard for nine more innings."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.