Oakland Youngsters Lead Way To First Win

On a day when the A's learned that they would be playing without the 2004 Rookie of the Year for at least two weeks, Oakland showed that youth is still being served on the rest of the 2005 roster. Led by a two-homer game from rookie Nick Swisher and buoyed by the starting pitching effort of 25-year old Kirk Saarloos, the A's crushed the Baltimore Orioles, 9-0, for their first win of the season.

The A's pounded out 12 hits and racked up nine runs two days after being shutout by the Baltimore pitching staff on Opening Day. Oakland got all of the runs they would need in the second inning. The inning started with leftfielder Charles Thomas being hit by a pitch from Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera. Swisher followed Thomas with the first of his three hits, a single that sent Thomas to third. Shortstop Marco Scutaro, playing in the place of the injured Bobby Crosby, walked to load the bases. Mark Kotsay sent a hard groundball to the hole between second and first, but Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts made a great play to prevent the ball from going through. Thomas came in to score, however, and the A's had the only run they would need.

Oakland's offense didn't stop there, however. New catcher Jason Kendall made his first hit as an Athletic an important one, as he shot a two-out, two-run single up the middle. Eric Chavez followed that hit with a long, opposite field homerun and the A's had a 5-0 lead. Erubiel Durazo singled to extend the inning for Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg worked the count to 3-0 before a frustrated Cabrera hit the A's first baseman with a pitch near his head. Hatteberg took exception to being beaned and shouted at the Orioles pitcher for a moment, but cooler heads prevailed and no one had to be tossed.

Saarloos took the 5-0 lead and made it count. He went a strong six innings and probably would have worked at least one more inning if he wasn't on an 80-pitch limit. In fact, he finished his six innings of work with exactly 80 pitches thrown. Going back to spring training, Saarloos has made three straight starts without allowing a run. The sinkerball pitcher allowed only one hit to the powerful Baltimore line-up, a single by lead-off hitter Brian Roberts. He also walked one and hit two batters.

Saarloos gave way to lefty reliever Ricardo Rincon, who worked a scoreless 7th inning. Rincon was relieved in the 8th inning by Huston Street, who made his major league debut. The relief prospect became the first 2004 draft pick to make an appearance in the major leagues. He retired Luis Matos on a pop-up back to the pitcher for his first major league out. Street then walked Roberts but recovered to retire Melvin Mora on a liner to third. Miguel Tejada singled through the second base hole to bring Sammy Sosa to the plate with two runners on and two out. Faced with his first major league jam, Street reared back and struck out the former National League MVP on four pitches. The final pitch was a nasty 87 MPH slider on the outside corner that Sosa swung at weakly. Jason Kendall secured the baseball for Street as a memento of his first big league strike out.

By the time Street entered the game, the A's had upped the lead to 7-0. In the top of the 7th, Keith Ginter smoked the first pitch he saw from Orioles reliever Steve Reed for a solo homerun to left to increase the A's lead to 6-0. Ginter had struck out in all four of his previous at-bats this season, so the homerun had to be a relief for the former Milwaukee Brewer. Ginter also made a nice defensive play at second in the fourth inning. One out later, Ginter's 7th inning blast was matched by Nick Swisher, who hit a towering drive to right field to up the A's lead to 7-0.

Swisher's night got even better in the top of the 9th inning when he came to the plate with Thomas on first and one out. Swisher took a 3-2 inside breaking ball from Orioles reliever Rick Bauer and sent it flying into the right field bleachers. The A's rookie right fielder finished his career night with a 3-5 line with two homeruns, three runs scored and three runs driven in.

Octavio Dotel worked a scoreless 9th to preserve the A's first shutout victory of the season. Oakland will send Dan Haren to the hill on Thursday to square off with the Orioles Erik Bedard in a battle of promising young starting pitchers.

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