Oakland A's Notebook: Slip Sliding Away

The Oakland A's are fading fast, as their latest bullpen blow-up cost them the game against Seattle on Wednesday night, and with it their share of the AL West lead. Find out how the A's are dealing with their shrinking playoff chances in this edition of <i>Oakland A's Notebook</i>...

It's a division race where the outlook changes by the hour, literally, and Wednesday night was the perfect example as two games played 1,705 miles and two time zones away went back-and-forth like a prizefight.

As the 8 o'clock hour began, it looked good for the A's to reclaim sole possession of first place in the American League West.

An hour later, it looked as if they would remain tied with the Anaheim Angels. But at 9:21 p.m., the A's fell behind in their game. And 23 minutes later, they went from the chased to the chaser in the division.

Another blown save by the bullpen, albeit in a tough situation, dropped the A's from first place.

The Anaheim Angels, who have won five straight games, lead the A's by one game with four to play. The teams conclude the season with three games in Oakland.

"We know we have to win three of the next four, no matter what," center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "Obviously, we are disappointed not to win this game. We have to find a way. We have to get it done.

"Our backs are against the wall. Hopefully we can come out, play a good game (Thursday afternoon) and make it exciting this weekend."

The drama from the eight o'clock hour:

--As the hour began, the A's held a 1-0 lead, and the Rangers took a 6-5 lead on the Angels in the eighth inning.

--Less than 15 minutes later, the Mariners tied it 1-1 on a Jolbert Cabrera single to center off Rich Harden, and the Angels scored a run in the ninth inning to tie their game.

--Just after 8:30 p.m., the Angels went ahead 8-6 on a Troy Glaus two-run homer. The A's were batting at the time and loaded the bases on an Eric Byrnes double and two walks, and then Byrnes scored at 8:47 p.m. when Mariners shortstop Jose Lopes twice muffed a grounder to short.

--Three minutes later, the Angels held off the Rangers, 8-7, to mathematically eliminate the upstarts from Texas.

NOTES

--RHP Rich Harden started the eighth inning at 106 pitches Wednesday but showed no signs of wearing down during a 13-pitch at-bat against Ichiro Suzuki. Harden hit 98 mph frequently during the duel and threw 99 mph on his 118th pitch, which resulted in a groundout to second. Some A's starters have lobbied to have their pitch counts extended in the stretch drive, and that's what manager Ken Macha did in this game. But it didn't pay off.

--RHP Octavio Dotel was warming up in the eighth inning with two runners on base and two out Wednesday, but that was just for the ninth. Manager Ken Macha was instructed by the training staff that Dotel probably shouldn't pitch more than one inning and needed extra time to warm up.

RHP Jim Mecir entered instead. The lead was gone two pitches later. Jolbert Cabrera singled to right to score two runs that would be the difference in the game. September call-up Jeremy Reed singled home an insurance run when Kotsay's accurate throw hit Cabrera in the helmet as he slid into third.

--It was a tough save situation, but it was nonetheless Mecir's fifth and the bullpen's 27th blown save of the year. The total is the most blown saves by the A's since 1972, the first year data is available.

--CF Mark Kotsay went 0-for-3 with a walk Wednesday, snapping his season-high 15-game hitting streak. The A's managed just three hits off Seattle starter Bobby Madritsch, who threw 133 pitches in the complete-game win and retired the final 10 batters to close out the contest.

--3B Eric Chavez was 1-for-3 with a walk and had Oakland's only RBI Wednesday. He's hit safely in eight straight games and is batting .323 during that stretch.


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