Oakland A's Look To Get Back On Track Vs. KC

Suddenly in their worst funk since late May, the Kansas City Royals are a most welcome opponent for the Oakland A's this weekend. The Royals have lost 18 straight games heading into this weekend's three-game series at the Coliseum, including three games to Oakland two weekends ago in Kansas City.

In the final two games of that series alone, the A's scored 27 runs. They've scored just 26 games in the first nine games of this homestand.

Plenty of players on the Royals roster have ties to the A's, such as Matt Stairs, Terrence Long, Angel Berroa, Emil Brown and Mike Wood.

But it will be a special homecoming for Mark Teahen, who played college at St. Mary's College in nearby Moraga and was part of the A's famed 2002 "Moneyball" draft. Teahen remains close friends with Nick Swisher, one of his fellow Moneyballers. The two hung out a little when the teams met two weeks ago.

"That whole draft class is really tight," Teahen said. "I don't know if it's just because it's a great group of guys or whether the book brought us together. But I made a lot of good friends from that draft class."

Teahen was part of the three-team trade last June that sent Carlos Beltran to Houston and Octavio Dotel to Oakland.

Knowing that A's third baseman Eric Chavez had just signed a six-year contract, Teahen, a third baseman his entire life, knew he had no little future with the A's.

"When he signed his deal that spring training, I knew the writing was on the wall," Teahen said. "I just had to get myself to the position where another team would want to trade for me. I went out and had a good year. When I got traded, there was no ill feelings toward the A's. I felt like I was traded to a great situation. I was excited for the opportunity to play with the Royals."

Witasick Thrown Off

RHP Jay Witasick admitted he was thinking the inning was over and thrown off by having to face a couple more hitters he didn't want to face.

But he later admitted, "I'm a professional and I have to battle back and get my team back in the dugout and keep it close."

Witasick didn't do that, after first-base umpire Chris Guccione clearly blew a call on a would-be third out of the seventh inning that allowed the go-ahead run to score Tuesday.

On the controversial play, Melvin Mora hit a grounder in the hole that third baseman Eric Chavez speared nicely. His throw was in the dirt, and Dan Johnson scooped it but initially pulled his foot off the base.

"I looked up to see if he had the ball and then I looked down if he had his foot on the bag," Guccione, who hadn't seen the replay, told a pool reporter. "It wasn't. He was pulled away."

However, replays showed that Johnson clearly moved his foot back onto the base in plenty of time.

"What can you say?" Johnson said. "The replay shows it. But they are human."

The boos at the Coliseum grew stronger as Miguel Tejada ripped an RBI double to the right-center gap and Javy Lopez singled to center to make it 4-1 off Witasick.

"As soon as the play was over, I have to go back to pitching and getting guys out, and I wasn't too effective after the fact," Witasick said. "That hurt us worse."

The A's scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings and had the tying or go-ahead runners on base in each inning, but they couldn't get the big hit to tie the game.

Friends Turned Foes

As Eric Byrnes walked to the plate and Barry Zito walked to the mound, both went out of their way to not make eye contact.

The good friends knew they were about to go head-to-head, but as Zito explained later, you can't look at a good friend because you will lose your edge.

Zito won the battle Monday, striking out Byrnes twice and getting him out three times en route to an 0-for-5 for Byrnes in his homecoming. But the Orioles won the game, parlaying a five-run seventh inning into a 6-2 win.

"It was interesting to face him," Zito said. "It doesn't feel like the big leagues when your face your buddy. It feels like a sandlot game."

The five-run seventh was everything the A's haven't been doing for two months.

The inning had two bases-loaded walks, two hit batters to load the bases, an infield single, another infield single on a dribbler just up the line that Zito couldn't field, and a costly throwing error by Bobby Crosby on a potential double-play grounder.

"That's something we absolutely didn't do the last two months," A's manager Ken Macha said. "Hopefully this is just a blip on the radar screen."

It didn't seem that big a deal at the time, but the trade that brought outfielder Jay Payton to the A's is shaping up as one of the team's biggest moves this season.

In his first 24 games with the A's, Payton hit eight home runs, drove in 23 runs, had four three-hit games, a huge grand slam, and a game-saving catch in Texas among many defensive plays.

Most important, at a time when potential Gold Glove centerfielder Mark Kotsay started in only five of 18 games, Payton hasn't let the A's play suffer defensively.

"He's giving us a lift, and I don't think it's unexpected," Kotsay said. "He's always been a very good player. Getting him in this environment, he's having a lot of fun. Good things have happened."

Payton wasn't playing much with the Red Sox and not happy about it. After an altercation in the dugout with manager Terry Francona, he was designated for assignment the next day. He arrived during the All-Star break in a deal for submarine reliever Chad Bradford.

"In a sense I am (surprised) because he's really given us a lot," A's manager Ken Macha said. "He's played solid center field, provided us with much needed power, he's gone out there in left field and done a great job there, too. We've had Kotsay out or at DH for a number of games and this guy has been terrific."

Other Notes

--RHP Joe Blanton has received two runs or less, while he's in the game, in 16 of his 24 starts. Blanton has given up just five runs in his last five starts, covering 32 innings. Tuesday, he delivered his 14th quality start, sixth in a row and 10th in his last 11 assignments.

--RF Bobby Kielty snapped an 0-for-19 streak with a single in the ninth inning Tuesday.

--CF Mark Kotsay, who was 5-for-21 since returning to the lineup from his latest bout with back spasms, had three hits Tuesday, including his 11th home run of the season.

--C Jason Kendall managed an infield single in the ninth inning Tuesday for his first RBI in eight games on this homestand but is 7-for-34 with no extra-base hits. He's 23-for-106 (.217) over his last 26 games.

--LHP Joe Kennedy pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Tuesday, retiring all seven batters he faced.

--SS Bobby Crosby ended a home run drought of 35 games and 140 at-bats, dating to his inside-the-park home run in Toronto, or 39 games and 157 at-bats since his last blast over the fence in Seattle, with a first-inning solo home run Monday night.

--OF Nick Swisher is expected back from the bereavement list for Friday's game.

--3B Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 with an RBI on Monday and now has 1,776 total bases to move past Terry Steinbach and into possession of eighth place in Oakland history. His 208th career double came in the eighth inning, tying him with Sal Bando for fifth place in Oakland history.

--LHP Ricardo Rincon on Monday allowed his first career run to the Orioles, snapping a streak of 20 games and 14 consecutive scoreless innings.

--LF Bobby Kielty cracked up his teammates by dressing up like Ronald McDonald before an Aug. 10 game against the Angels. Teammates began calling Kielty "Ronnie Mac" during spring training for his wild red hair. C Jason Kendall found the costume, which Kielty wore, along with big red shoes, and lots of face makeup. He played catch with SS Bobby Crosby and juggled baseballs in front of cameras.

--C Jason Kendall was voted the second best hit-and-run artist, in a survey of managers by Baseball America, even though the A's rarely hit and run.

--LHP Barry Zito was nominated by teammates for the Marvin Miller Award for community service.

--OF Matt Watson was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento for his third tour of duty with the A's this year. Watson was batting a team-leading .313 with 73 RBIs for the Rivercats.

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