Blanton Conquers A King

Joe Blanton was the A's resident hard-luck starter in the run support column a year ago, averaging 3.93 runs (the sixth lowest in the AL) and working six of the 12 games when the A's were shutout.

Going against 19-year-old phenom Felix Hernandez on Friday, it had the makings of another night with not much support -- and for four innings, it looked that way again as the game was scoreless.

But the A's got a run off Hernandez in the fifth, a run off the Mariners bullpen in the sixth, then busted the game open with three runs in the eighth to give Joe Blanton plenty of runs.

Blanton, proving he's not an ordinary fifth starter, turned in the best performance by an A's starter after one time through the rotation with eight scoreless innings.

"We saw that a lot from Joe last year," center fielder Mark Kotsay said. "He knew his challenge. ... He was outstanding."

Manager Ken Macha's toughest call was whether to let Blanton try for his first career shutout. Blanton threw 98 pitches after eight innings, but Macha was thinking more big picture.

"I'd have hated for him to throw 15-18 pitches and be at 120 pitches his first time out," Macha said. "I'm sure he's disappointed. But hopefully this pays dividends down the line. You throw eight shutout innings, you should feel good about yourself."

REPLAY: Mark Kotsay broke a scoreless tie with a run-scoring double in the fifth inning. Nick Swisher hit an apparent game-opening, three-run double in the sixth, but Milton Bradley missed third base and had to come back to touch it, then was tagged out in a relay -- costing the A's two runs (although, as Macha pointed out after the game, if Bradley hadn't gone back to touch the bag, the one run that did score wouldn't have counted). Marco Scutaro continued a superb week with a two-run triple in the seventh.

Friday's Notebook

--SS Bobby Crosby is expected back in the A's lineup Saturday. He missed four games with a badly lacerated left index finger, after getting spiked by the Yankees' Robinson Cano on opening night.

--OF Nick Swisher used teammate Frank Thomas' bat on Thursday night and struck out three straight times. He went back to his own model in his fourth at-bat and struck out again.

--CF Mark Kotsay has hit safely in four of five games, including three multi-hit games. Kotsay drove in two runs Friday to give him four so far.

--RF Milton Bradley was issued three of the A's 11 walks on the night. Bradley has six walks in five games already this year.

--RHP Justin Duchscherer is also off to a quick start, working another scoreless inning to nail down the final three outs. He hasn't allowed a run in four innings this year.

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