Sweeney drives in five as A's hold on for win

Sweeney drives in five as A's hold on for win

OAKLAND -- Ryan Sweeney's quiet nature doesn't hide the fact that he's his own toughest critic.

The A's right fielder entered Tuesday's contest against the visiting Rangers having reached base in 24 of his 25 games this year -- his consistent at-bats leaving manager Bob Geren singing his praises.

But Sweeney hasn't exactly been feeling the harmony. Rather, he's felt something was off. Case in point: On Monday, the outfielder compiled a 1-for-4 night, but he didn't feel comfortable at the plate.

"Last night, I felt like I didn't know how to hit," he admitted.

So he watched video and tweaked his swing. Then he went to the plate Tuesday and posted a career night of sorts in a 7-6 A's victory.

"I've started to feel better at the plate," Sweeney said after the win, which knotted the three-game set at one apiece heading into Wednesday afternoon's rubber match.

He really didn't need to say it, though. The 10,000-plus fans in attendance actually saw it in the form of three hits and five RBIs -- two of which came as a result of a homer in the first.

The long ball, which snapped a career-long 51-game homerless streak for Sweeney, jump-started a marathon against Texas starter Scott Feldman, who surrendered seven runs in the first four frames against a feisty A's lineup.

Sweeney led the pack by adding an RBI single in the second before bringing in two more runs in the fourth with another base hit that scored Cliff Pennington and Daric Barton. The latter went 2-for-3 with a triple in the game.

"It's great when you're getting contributions up and down the lineup," Sweeney said. "A lot of the guys got hits tonight, and when the guys in front of you, and behind you, are getting on base, that only helps you."

Possibly more than anyone, it helped out A's starter Vin Mazzaro, who brought with him a familiar friend to the mound Tuesday on a night he received a no-decision.

Well, more like a familiar foe.

The Oakland right-hander, called up Tuesday from Triple-A to make a spot start for the injured Justin Duchscherer, retired six of Texas' first seven batters, bringing to mind the Mazzaro who tallied a career-opening scoreless streak of 17 2/3 innings last season.

"The first two innings were as crisp and clean as I've seen from him," Geren said.

But then the other Mazzaro showed up in the third -- the same one who went 0-8 with a 7.22 ERA over his 10 final starts last year. The righty walked three in the frame and, ultimately, offered up a first-pitch grand slam to Vladimir Guerrero.

"I was up in the zone there," Mazzaro said. "I lost it a little bit."

He lost it enough to convince Geren to pull him following a leadoff walk in the fourth. Mazzaro threw just 62 pitches. And while the hurler thought he pitched "pretty good," aside from the four-run third, the A's skipper didn't sugarcoat his reasoning for handing a 5-4 game over to the bullpen.

"Walks," Geren said. "I don't like walks.

"Even though it was early in the game, I felt like we had enough bullpen to win. I wasn't going to lose the lead with someone who looked like he had lost his command."

The right-hander, who was 1-1 with a 2.59 ERA in five games with Sacramento upon his promotion, said he was "a little bit" surprised at his early exit, but "it happens, I guess."

"I was one pitch away from getting a double play," he said. "I thought I had a good chance today of proving what I could do here, but it got cut short, and there's nothing you can do about it."

As much as the 23-year-old Mazzaro's short-lived outing proved to be slightly disappointing, it paved the way for Oakland's bullpen to showcase six strong innings of two-run ball. Five members of the A's relief corps took to the mound on Tuesday -- among them Michael Wuertz, who tossed out 1 1/3 shutout innings in his season debut after being reinstated from the disabled list Monday.

"It was definitely good to be out there," the right-handed reliever said. "It's nice to get back in the realm of things and get out there and be part of win.

"It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, obviously, but that's going to come. This is only my seventh appearance in the past two months, so it's going to take a little bit of time, but I feel like I'm getting to where I want to be."

Wuertz was followed by Brad Ziegler, who gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings but walked away with his first win of the season. Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey pitched an effective 1 1/3 innings of two-hit ball to notch his fourth save of the year, handing his club a win for just the second time in its last eight games.

"It was a big team win today," the A's closer said. "The offense put us in a great position to get that victory today, and we definitely needed it. We've been struggling here with injuries, pitching and offense, but today, we were able to put it all together."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.