Cust, bats pick up Haren in win over O's

Cust, bats pick up Haren in win

OAKLAND -- From time to time, you have to pick your teammate up; and when that teammate is a guy like Dan Haren he can, in return, pick up the entire ballclub on his own.

Not often does Haren need anybody picking him up, but after giving up a pair of runs in the first inning in Saturday's game with the Orioles, he was looking to his mates for help and they were happy to oblige.

The A's bats answered right back with a pair of runs and didn't stop there, helping Haren to his 11th win of the season after a 4-3 win at McAfee Coliseum on Saturday night.

The two runs the A's answered with in the bottom of the first couldn't have come at a better time for Haren, as the offense got the game back to even and gave the righty a fresh start.

"That's a nice lift," Haren said. "Any time I put my team in the hole, I'm disappointed, but I told myself not to hang my head and to go out and pitch like it was 0-0."

A reason for the early kinks might have been the fact that Haren was working with catcher Kurt Suzuki for the first time.

The Orioles stole three bases in the first inning, but the duo settled in, got on the same page and picked up their first win together.

"That first inning was weird because this is the first time for us," Haren said. "We got in a rhythm as the game went on, and I told him this was going to be the first of many."

Despite allowing those two runs in the first inning Haren settled in and had a very good outing. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowed three runs and struck out seven as he improved to 11-3. He left the game still leading the American League in earned run average at 2.41.

"He looked like a true ace," manager Bob Geren said of Haren after he shook off the rough first inning. "It didn't affect him, he just went right at it. That's why he's an All-Star."

Haren was getting a lot of swings and misses on his split-finger pitch and Suzuki worked hard behind the plate blocking balls all night.

"I had a good split tonight, my arm felt good," Haren said. "I am not an easy person to catch, and Kurt did a good job of blocking balls in the dirt."

Geren agreed that Haren's splitter was dancing all over the place on Saturday night.

"He got a lot of swings on blocked balls and Kurt did a good job of blocking them tonight."

After allowing two hits and three baserunners in the first inning, Haren allowed just five hits for the rest of his outing.

He gave up a two-run double to Kevin Millar, but after that, retired 19 of the final 25 batters he faced.

Only four of the hits left the infield as Brian Roberts and Jay Payton doubled and Cory Patterson rapped a sharp single. Jay Gibbons' single in the seventh was a blooper that dropped into left and the other was an infield single by Paul Bako in the second inning.

Even that hit was questionable as Mark Ellis was able to knock the ball down and fire to first, but Bako was called safe by first-base umpire Brian Runge. However, the television replay appeared to show that Ellis' throw beat Bako.

It wound up being a moot point as Haren got Roberts to fly out and continued to cruise.

The relief duo of Santiago Casilla and Alan Embree locked the game down for Haren. Casilla went 1 1/3 innings following Haren and Embree closed it out in the ninth for his 10th save of the year.

"Casilla did a good job of finishing that inning and getting through the eighth and Embree looked good and he was sharp," Geren said.

Meanwhile, the A's offense was busy making sure that Haren was rewarded for his superb start, supplying him with enough runs to ensure him of the win.

After getting the two runs back in the first, the A's scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to take the lead and to add a bit of a cushion.

Mark Kotsay doubled in the fourth, moved to third on a bunt single by Bobby Crosby and scored on a sacrifice fly by Suzuki.

In the fifth inning, it was much simpler than that. Instead of manufacturing a run, Jack Cust was the manufacturer, the distributor and the retailer.

Simply stated, Cust took an 0-1 pitch from Orioles starter Steve Trachsel and blasted it to his favorite part of the ballpark -- over the fence just to the left of straightaway center field. It was Cust's 17th homer of the season and it made it a two-run game.

"It's amazing the way he's come on as a big-league hitter," designated hitter Mike Piazza said. "He has a good command of the strike zone."

The A's had four consecutive batters reach to start their half of the second inning. Travis Buck led off with an infield single, then Ellis bunted for a hit. Cust followed that by walking, loading the bases for Piazza.

Piazza plated Buck with a line drive single to left, then Ellis scored when Eric Chavez grounded into a double play. Piazza wound up getting two hits in his second game back from the disabled list.

Matt Smith is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.