Zito picks up 10th victory of year

Zito picks up 10th victory of year

BALTIMORE -- The A's picked up what should have been a feel-good win Wednesday, downing the Orioles, 5-1, behind a homer and three RBIs from Frank Thomas, Eric Chavez's first homer in more than a month, and seven brilliant innings from Barry Zito.

The clubhouse vibe afterward, though, was considerably more subdued than you'd expect from a team that's opened a tough East Coast road trip with five wins in seven games. An acrimonious afternoon for Milton Bradley and a less-than-pleased Mark Kotsay, one of the team's most respected veterans, left the room strangely quiet as everyone packed up for Detroit.

Kotsay, who got his first start at first base since 2000, was openly upset by having been moved from first to center field after making two errors on the same play in the seventh inning.

"I was having fun until I got put back in the outfield after booting a ball," Kotsay said. "That was kind of embarrassing."

Bradley, who was carried off the field after a stumble on the bases in the top of the sixth but returned to his post in right field for the bottom of the frame and played the rest of the game, wasn't talking at all, leaving others to discuss his confrontations with fans in the eighth and ninth.

"He said they were getting personal with him," said firs- base umpire Rick Reed. "He said we should have more security. ... They escorted some people away. I don't know if they were removed or escorted to their seats. ... Milton mentioned to me in the ninth inning that it had been going on all three games."

Kotsay defended Bradley, who also got into a shouting match with fans in Boston on Saturday.

"I think people buy tickets just to [yell at Bradley], to see what kind of fire they can light," Kotsay said. "He's definitely a target, in my opinion."

Kotsay said the comments he's heard hurled Bradley's way are "as antagonizing" as he's ever heard, "mainly about incidents from his past; just comment after comment after comment."

Asked if he planned to have a chat with Bradley, who came to Oakland with a history of altercations with fans, teammates and coaches, A's manager Ken Macha said, "I think we've already had a talk about that."

Asked if he thought Bradley was becoming a potential distraction, he said, "I was focused on the game."

Oh yeah, the game. A fine win it was for the A's, who maintained their slim lead in the American League West by winning their second consecutive road series.

"To take three of four in Boston and two of three here, we've got some nice momentum going into Detroit," said Zito, who scattered five hits and a walk. "We're pretty happy to be where we are right now."

"We're in a dogfight every day," added Thomas, whose 20th homer of the year capped Oakland's scoring. "We've got the Angels and Rangers right on our tail, so every win's a big one."

Chavez, who has been battling tendinitis in both forearms and entered the game batting .133 (12-for-90) over his past 25 games, gave Oakland a 4-0 lead when he took Orioles starter Kris Benson (9-9) deep to right field with one out in the sixth inning.

It was Chavez's first long ball since June 16, but his mood mirrored that of the clubhouse in general.

"If you go up there enough, eventually you're going to run into something," he said of the drought-busting homer. "It didn't make me feel any better."

Thomas, who had given the A's a 2-0 lead with a two-run single with two out in the first, hit his 20th homer of the year two pitches after Chavez's blast, sending a Benson fastball 410 feet into the left-field bleachers. Oakland's third run came when Bradley, who led the A's with three hits, homered to right with one out in the third.

"The offense was great today," Zito said. "Getting that lead early was huge for me."

Zito (10-6), who idolized Benson in his late teens, was brilliant in their first head-to-head matchup; Oakland's ace faced three batters over the minimum in the first six innings while Benson was giving up five runs on nine hits and a walk.

"I don't see it as outperforming him," Zito said. "I see it more as holding the opposition down. ... I wish I could have watched him pitch more, but I have to stay kind of focused when I'm pitching."

"He's a good pitcher," Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada said of Zito. "He throws the ball where he wants to, and we swung at a lot of bad pitches, too. ... That's why he's good, because he throws a lot of strikes."

The O's finally broke through in the seventh, when Kevin Millar doubled and scored on a bloop single by Ramon Hernandez. Kotsay was then charged with two errors after mishandling Corey Patterson's grounder and flipping past Zito at the bag to put runners at the corners with one out, but Zito got out of the jam by getting Chris Gomez to hit into an inning-ending double play.

"That was a tough play for Kots," said Zito, who improved to 79-5 in his career when getting at least four runs of support. "And we got the double play, so it didn't cost us a run or anything."

That's why Kotsay was miffed at being moved to center field the next inning. Macha suggested that the move was made in part because Bobby Kielty, who started in left field, had hurt his side on a swing in the top of the sixth.

Said Kotsay, "Kielty's not hurt."

Kielty confirmed as much, saying, "I'm fine."

Bradley's day took a turn for the worse when he stumbled after rounding first base on a line drive to left in the sixth. He appeared to be injured, never making an effort to get back to the bag, and was tagged out after left fielder Luis Terrero got the ball back into the infield.

"He sprained his ankle," said assistant athletic trainer Steve Sayles, who treated Bradley after the incident. "It was already taped; we just reinforced it a little bit."

Bradley just missed catching Millar's double in the seventh with a tumbling dive, and in the bottom of the eighth got into it with some fans in the right-field arcade area. In the ninth, he got into it with fans down the right-field line, prompting three members of the umpiring crew to intervene.

"He's going to have more attention, and the more attention that gets drawn to him, some people see that as a weakness and go for it," Reed said. "I hope it doesn't get to be a problem."

Kotsay said he didn't think Bradley was becoming a distraction, adding that he likes "the fire he brings to this ballclub." Kotsay then suggested reporters talk to Thomas, who has played with "fiery guys" such as Carl Everett and Tony Phillips in the past.

"You've just got to leave them alone and let them be who they are," Thomas said. "All the fiery guys I've played with, they play better when they're like 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.