A's cant help Windsor in debut

A's cant help Windsor in debut

BALTIMORE -- Jason Windsor's big-league debut was less than pretty, and the three runs Oakland scored to climb out of the hole Windsor dug were no things of beauty.

Nick Swisher's upper body can't be looking too groovy right about now, either. Two days after taking a 96-mph fastball in the lower back from Curt Schilling, he took one fastball in the back and one in the shoulder Monday night.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who went to Oakland's Skyline High School and used to be a vendor at Oakland Coliseum, incited the home crowd at Camden Yards by spelling out O-R-I-O-L-E-S during the seventh-inning stretch from a luxury box he shared with, among others, actor/comedian Dennis Miller and famed director Ron Howard.

Getting the picture yet? It just wasn't a good night for the A's, who looked sapped by the steamy Baltimore weather -- it was 99 degrees for the first pitch at 7:07 p.m. local time.

Held to five hits, the A's went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and fell, 5-3, in the opener of a three-game series. They managed to maintain their slim lead in the American League West, because the Rangers got thumped by the Blue Jays, 10-1, but it wasn't a night for embracing silver linings.

"It wasn't a very well-played game," manager Ken Macha said.

Windsor's father, Dave, and stepmother, Julie, traveled from Arizona to watch his debut. Windsor, who was called up from Triple-A Sacramento, walked the first batter he faced and gave up a pair of singles in the first frame to fall behind 1-0.

"My nerves were fine," Windsor said, "but I was super-amped up."

His two-out throwing error in the third inning after a swinging bunt by Miguel Tejada led to two unearned runs, but he didn't use his emotions as an excuse for the miscue.

"No," he said, "that's actually just complete stupidity. ... Just a bad throw."

The leadoff man reached safely four times against Windsor, who allowed five hits and walked three before leaving after five innings with a pitch count of 86. A couple of double-play balls helped him minimize the damage, and he showed enough to impress his opponents.

"He was good," said Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora. "He's got a good changeup. He was able to hold us to only three runs. He started a little nervous, but he did a good job after that. He mixed the pitches pretty good. Fastball inside, changeup away, slider. This guy's going to be good."

"We probably didn't see the best that he has," added O's manager Sam Perlozzo. "We let him off the hook a couple times early, and he seemed to settle in with his changeup. It became tough to hit after that. He looks like he's going to be OK."

But thanks to an equally unsteady counterpart in O's lefty Adam Loewen -- and a big break on the bases -- the A's took Windsor off the hook for a loss by tying the game, 3-3, and leaving the game in the hands of the bullpens.

Oakland's first two runs came in the fourth inning, when Loewen lost all command and walked four batters. The first was Eric Chavez, who walked all the way around the bases, and the second was to Frank Thomas, who was balked in to make it 3-2.

The tying run will go down officially as a double steal, with Jay Payton getting credit for the first steal of home by an Athletic since Chavez did it in 2000. But it happened only because Milton Bradley, who had put runners at the corners with a gorgeous bunt single, got caught too far off first base and stayed in a rundown long enough for Payton to score from third.

"It was definitely a type of game we haven't had all year," said A's outfielder Bobby Kielty. "We haven't gotten a lot of breaks, but we got lucky a couple times tonight. We just didn't really do anything on our own."

The top of the sixth ended when Bradley, who reached second on the throw home that failed to get Payton, forgot how many outs there were and was easily doubled up after sprinting for third on Mark Ellis' one-out fly ball to shallow center field.

"I'm sure he knows it was a mistake," Macha said.

Kirk Saarloos took over for Windsor and pitched a perfect sixth, but after getting the leadoff man in the seventh, he surrendered four singles, the last two by Mora and Tejada to drive in runs.

The A's stranded their sixth runner in scoring position of the night in the eighth, and O's closer Chris Ray wrapped things up in the ninth to pick up his 23rd save of the year.

Windsor, who lived in the Bay Area from fourth grade through his sophomore season at Saratoga's West Valley College and frequently attended A's games, said his effort was "below-average," and he admitted that he'd probably do a little what-if thinking about his overthrow at first base.

But with time those memories will fade. The one that won't -- the one he called the highlight of his night -- will be the strikeout of Tejada that ended his outing.

"When I went to the games, Tejada was the shortstop and always a powerhouse at the plate," he said, "so I was kind of happy about that."

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