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A's Top Falling Blue Jays


One of the top home-run hitting teams in the majors, the Oakland Athletics showed they can win by doing the little things, too.

Right fielder Matt Stairs preserved a tie by going to the wall and catching Shawn Green's one-on, two-out drive in the ninth. Then in the bottom of the inning, Randy Velarde delivered a two-out bloop RBI single off bullpen ace Billy Koch as Oakland beat the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 Sunday.

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  • "He's one of the hardest throwers in the league and you don't get runs off him. You have to manufacture them," said A.J. Hinch, who laid down a pinch-hit sacrifice bunt after Miguel Tejada worked Koch for a leadoff walk.

    "We just kind of played little ball from there on in and it worked out great. We got a couple of home runs today but we don't have to live and die with the home run. We can play fundamental baseball if the situation calls for it."

    Down 1-2 in the count against Koch, Velarde fought off an inside pitch just enough to get the ball to drop into shallow right field.

    "The guy you're facing throws 95 mph plus," Velarde said. "You're just looking for something to hit or get wood on. I was lucky to get my bat around and put the ball in play."

    Koch said he put himself in a no-win position by walking Tejada.

    "I came in there and I couldn't throw strikes," he said. "There was really something wrong. I couldn't throw a strike when I needed it. I felt good in the 'pen bueverything went bad when I came in. Every loss for this team is tough. I let the team down today and I'm not happy about it."

    The A's, who got solo homers from Olmedo Saenz and Ben Grieve, began the day tied with Boston in the race for the AL wild-card spot. They improved to 7-3 during an 11-game stretch against Boston and Toronto, their chief competition for the playoff berth.

    Boston played at Texas in a night game.

    "It certainly feels like a special time of year," Hinch said. "It all revolves around winning. Every guy in this clubhouse sees the opportunity that we have before us and we're trying to seize it."

    Doug Jones (4-5) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory, Oakland's 15th in 21 games this month.

    Tejada began the ninth by drawing a walk from Koch (0-2). Hinch followed with his team-leading ninth sacrifice and Rich Becker grounded out before Velarde singled, sending Toronto to its eighth loss in nine games.

    Gil Heredia, bidding for an eighth straight win, was working with a 3-2 lead in the seventh. He got two quick outs when third baseman Olmedo Saenz snared Shannon Stewart's liner and then threw to first to double off Mike Matheny.

    Homer Bush beat out an infield single and Heredia was relieved by Buddy Groom, who gave up successive singles to Shawn Green and Carlos Delgado that tied it at 3.

    Heredia, who went 6 2-3 innings and allowed three runs on nine hits, was left with his 12th no-decision of the year.

    Roy Halladay also didn't figure in the decision after going six innings. He allowed three runs on seven hits, including two solo home runs, the first by Ben Grieve in the fourth and the other in the sixth by Olmedo Saenz.

    Stewart led off the game with a single, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 20 games, and scored on Green's double.

    akland tied in its half of the first. Stairs blooped a single to shallow left that dropped among three Toronto fielders, scoring Velarde from third.

    Notes

  • Toronto has scored in the first inning 42 times this season, going 26-16 in those games, including losses the past two days.
  • The Blue Jays fell to 3-24 against Boston, New York and Oakland.
  • The A's moved to a season-high 12 games over .500 at 68-56.
  • The A's have 81 homers in their last 42 games and 181 for the season, second in the majors to Seattle, which had 192 before Sunday.

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