Oakland A's Notebook - August 9

As the Oakland A's get ready to square off with the Angels of Anaheim for first place in the AL West, we take a moment to check the news and notes from around the organization.

Kennedy A Key Cog

As he was congratulating his players for their victory Thursday afternoon, manager Ken Macha sought out pitcher Joe Kennedy and told him, "I haven't forgotten about you."

It's just that when starting pitchers keep working deep into games, like the A's starters have done the last week, only a couple relievers are needed.

A rough fifth inning for Kirk Saarloos on Friday night allowed Macha to get Kennedy into a game for the first time in eight days, and Kennedy stabilized it with 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win.

Meanwhile, the A's offense rallied back from yet another three-run deficit to claim a 5-4 victory over the Royals.

"That's a game we lose in April and May," Saarloos said. "Kennedy was phenomenal. If you are going to win a game like that, you have to have what we did, which was an absolutely phenomenal bullpen. We had the opportunity to come back and we found a way to win -- which is nice."

Passing The Test Of The Baggie Dome

Since the Metrodome opened in 1982, it's always provided a barometer of just how well the Athletics are playing.

It's a place where Oakland's weaknesses were exposed. Yet the rare series victory provided memorable moments -- such as Eric Fox's three-run, ninth-inning homer in 1992 -- and offered the hint something special could be happening that season.

One can't help but think that again this year after the A's lost one-run leads in the fifth and seventh innings Thursday afternoon but rallied back to reclaim the lead in the eighth and get two insurance runs in the ninth inning for a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Barry Zito (11-8) lost the small leads early but would not be denied winning his eighth consecutive start.

"This team's just been just unreal," said Zito, who retired the first 12 batters of the game and felt he had better stuff than when he flirted with a no-hitter July 15.

"When I slipped up and gave up a run, we got it right back, which is good for the team's morale. We've been so tenacious. We're battling every inning. Late in the game, we're getting better and having great at-bats."

Including their weekend series in Kansas City, the A's have won eight series in a row and 15 of their last 16 series.

"All the games were tight and well played," A's manager Ken Macha said. "You can't mistakes here or they will beat you. Very intense ballgames. They all could have gone either way."

Notes From Around The Organization

--1B Dan Johnson homered for the fourth straight game Saturday and heard cheers from the fans on the road again at Kansas City. It was his family and friends during his four-game homecoming in Minnesota. This time, it was his in-laws and a group of dedicated Nebraska fans who drove to Kansas City to see the former Cornhusker star.

--SP Juan Cruz earned the win after pitching six plus strong innings for the AAA-Sacramento River Cats in their 5-3 win over Round Rock. Cruz was nearly perfect through six innings but appeared to run out of gas in the seventh. He walked the first two batters of the seventh and allowed an RBI single before being relieved by Britt Reames. Reames would eventually allow the inherited runners to score to up Cruz's total to three earned runs allowed. Cruz struck out eight in the game and has a 2.42 ERA and a 71:20 K:BB ratio in 52 innings for Sacramento.

--OF Matt Watson's strong AAA campaign continued on Monday night when he reached base four times and homered for the 16th time this season. Watson is hitting .308 on the year and has a team-leading 72 RBI. He also added his 20th double in Monday's contest.

--2B Kevin Melillo hit his first AA homerun on Monday night. The homer came in Melillo's ninth game with the Midland Rockhounds and is his 18th on a season that has seen him go from A-Kane County to AA-Midland via A-Stockton. The South Carolina alum is hitting .294 with seven RBI in those nine AA games. On the season, Melillo is hitting .312 with an impressive .532 slugging percentage.

-- C/DH Casey Myers also had a big night for the Rockhounds on Monday. Myers went 4-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. The four hits raised Myers' average to .367. Although he has only appeared in 46 games this season, Myers has 35 RBI and a 950 OPS.

--OF Javier Herrera's dramatic ninth inning homerun sent A-Kane County's game against Dayton into extra innings and the Cougars eventually pulled out the win in 11 innings. The homer was Herrera's 13th of the year. Herrera didn't limit his damage to the batter's box, however. The five-tool prospect swiped two bases, upping his season total to 24. Herrera was on base four times on Monday and is now hitting .288 for the Cougars this season.

--OF and 2005 first round supplemental pick Travis Buck had his first professional walk-off hit to make the Cougars a winner in 11. Buck doubled home 1B Tom Everidge, who had walked to start the inning. Buck is hitting .296 with five RBI in seven games for Kane County. He is reaching base at a .481 clip for the Cougars. Buck began his professional career at A-Vancouver and hit .361 with two homers in nine games for the Canadians before he was promoted.

--2005 draftee Craig Italiano has been racking up the strike outs in the desert heat. The high school draft pick and Texas native has whiffed 11 batters in only eight innings over his first four appearances. Fellow 2005 pick Jared Lansford has been sidelined with a minor ankle sprain but is expected to be back on the mound in game action soon.

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