'Moneyball' Comes Up Aces In A's Win

The Oakland A's broke a two-game losing streak and captured their first win at home on the strength of a strong starting pitching performance from starter Joe Blanton and two hits from right-fielder Nick Swisher. Second baseman Keith Ginter drove in two, as the A's toppled the hot-hitting Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3.

Rookie starter Joe Blanton was given the job of playing "stopper" for Oakland on a chilly Wednesday night, as the A's had skidded to two straight losses to the red-hot Blue Jays. The assignment was particularly tough considering that the Blue Jays are one of the American League's best hitting teams thus far this season. Blanton, who allowed two runs in five inconsistent innings against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last Friday, was sharp from the outset. He mixed an outstanding curveball with an effective slider and change-up to keep the Blue Jays hitters off of his fastball for much of the night. He didn't allow a hit until there were two outs in the 3rd inning.

Blanton cruised through the first five innings, allowing only that 3rd inning single and a walk. However, he hit a rough spot in the top of the 6th, as he allowed a lead-off homerun to left-fielder Reed Johnson and then walked designated hitter Frank Catalanotto. Blanton induced a 4-6-3 double-play ball off the bat of Orlando Hudson, but allowed the Blue Jays' third hit of the night to Vernon Wells before retiring Eric Hinske to end the inning.

A 1-0 deficit might have looked daunting to the A's, who have been scuffling at the plate for much of the season, especially with runners in scoring position. However, rookie Nick Swisher – who, along with Blanton, was a first round pick in the famous "Moneyball" 2002 draft – made sure the A's didn't have to think about the deficit for long. Leading off the bottom of the 6th, Swisher took a high fastball from David Bush into the seats in right to tie the game. The rookie is leading the team with three homeruns this season.

Buoyed by Swisher's blast, the A's offense momentarily came to life. After Mark Ellis was retired, Mark Kotsay doubled and Jason Kendall followed with a double of his own, giving the A's a 2-1 lead. Despite throwing only 77 pitches, Blanton was pulled at the start of the 7th in favor of fellow rookie Huston Street. Blanton finished the game with six innings pitched, one run allowed on three hits and two walks. He struck out three.

Street, who had come into the game with three scoreless outings on the season, allowed a lead-off double to Shea Hillenbrand to start the inning. Hillenbrand advanced to third on a ground-out to second and came around to score the tying run on a single by Alex Rios. The Blue Jays rally died there, however, as Kendall threw out Rios trying to steal and Street struck out Russ Adams to end the inning.

After a scoreless 8th inning from set-up man Kiko Calero, the A's immediately went to work on breaking the tie in the bottom of the frame. Swisher once again ignited a rally when he started the inning with a hard single to right. He advanced to second on a pretty sacrifice bunt by Ellis. The Blue Jays chose to walk Kotsay intentionally to get to Kendall. The A's catcher came through for the second time in the game, singling to right to score Swisher. The A's would add some needed insurance runs when Eric Chavez drew a walk to load the bases, setting up Kotsay's score on a fielding error by catcher Gregg Zaun. The error came when Erubiel Durazo grounded what should have been an easy double-play ball back to pitcher Scott Schoenweis. Schoenweis hesitated before throwing home and the hesitation threw off Zaun, who dropped the throw. The A's broke the game open one out later when second baseman Keith Ginter lined a single to left-center, scoring two runs.

Closer Octavio Dotel made the game interesting in the 9th when he allowed a run on two walks and a double. The tying run was at the plate when he struck out Johnson to end the game. Oakland is now 4-5 on the season and will take on the Angels on Friday. Barry Zito will take the hill against Bartolo Colon.

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