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At Long Last, an A-Minus

Baseball: Oakland's AL-record win streak ends at 20 games with 6-0 loss to Twins, and Angels trail by only two in West.

September 07, 2002|J.A. ADANDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MINNEAPOLIS — For the Oakland A's, it's time to stop chasing the 1916 Giants and 1935 Cubs and start worrying about the 2002 Angels.

The A's lost to the Minnesota Twins, 6-0, at the Metrodome Friday night, ending their American League-record winning streak at 20 games. The A's fell six short of the major league record set by the New York Giants, and one shy of the second-place Chicago Cubs.

And now they're only two games ahead of the Angels, who beat the Baltimore Orioles Friday to close the gap in the American League West race.

"Our streak really overshadowed the ball they've been playing," Oakland first baseman Scott Hatteberg said. "I think it's been part of what's driven us, knowing we were going to play them a lot this month--and Seattle. It's amazing we win 20 games in a row and we still haven't really pulled away, so they're playing great."

Obviously the A's were playing stellar ball themselves to pull off such a run. They averaged seven runs a game and batted .299 with 30 home runs during the streak. The pitching staff had a 2.65 earned-run average and allowed two runs or fewer eight times.

That all ended with a loud thump--which also happened to be the sound the Twins' five doubles made as they hit the outfield fence.

The Twins rocked Oakland starter Cory Lidle for eight hits and five runs. Meanwhile, Minnesota's Brad Radke went the distance, allowing six hits and one walk to pick up his seventh win and first shutout of the season.

The A's built most of the streak at the expense of the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. None of those teams has a winning record. The A's did win three against the Twins last weekend--in Oakland.

"Everyone knew that coming into Minnesota, playing at their place, was going to be the test for us," Lidle said. "They got us."

The Twins are in command of the AL Central with an 82-59 record. And while the A's earned a spot in the history book, they might be a little jealous of the Twins' magic number--eight--to clinch the division.

Minnesota's Jacque Jones led off with a double in the bottom of the first inning and scored one out later when Corey Koskie doubled to right center. Luis Rivas led off the third with a triple and Koskie brought him home with a single. Koskie handled things himself with a solo home run in the sixth.

A.J. Pierzynski hit a one-out double in the seventh. After Rivas grounded to third, Jones hit a ground ball toward the hole. Miguel Tejada tried to gun it to first, but his throw skipped and Hatte- berg couldn't handle it in time. Pierzynski rounded third and slid home in time to beat catcher Ramon Hernandez's tag.

The next batter, Cristian Guzman, hit a rocket to the left-field alley that hit the bottom of the wall. Jones raced home as the relay throw came to the plate. Again the ball got there in time, but Hernandez didn't get his glove low enough and Jones slid under it to score.

Another double, this one by Torii Hunter, led to Minnesota's final run in the eighth.

Oakland had the bases loaded with two out in the first, but David Justice popped up. With two men on in the third inning, Eric Chavez hit a blast down the right-field line that curved foul at the last moment. Then he struck out.

The A's had won their previous three games in their final at-bat, but with Radke in control the 27,409 fans at the Metrodome felt confident enough to chant "streak is o-ver" in the top of the ninth.

"Obviously it wasn't going to go on forever," Lidle said. "It had to end tonight. It was a well-pitched game by Radke. They deserved it."

Said Oakland Manager Art Howe: "If you're going to lose the streak, that's the kind of game you want to have, something you can't second-guess yourself."

The A's have taken pride in their relaxed attitude win or lose this season, and there weren't any signs of depression in the locker room afterward.

Designated hitter Ray Durham even said he was "relieved."

"We can go out and play baseball without everybody eyeballing us," he said.

The A's are keeping an eye on the Angels, who host them in a three-game series starting Monday.

"They're an impressive ballclub," Lidle said. "They're not going away. We're not expecting them to go away. It's going to come down to, probably, the last week of the season."

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* Refusing to Lose The longest winning streaks in major league baseball: No YEAR TEAM 26 1916 New York Giants (1 tie) 21 1880 Chicago Cubs (1 tie) 21 1935 Chicago Cubs 20 1884 Providence Grays 20 2002 Oakland Athletics 19 1947 New York Yankees 19 1906 Chicago White Sox (1 tie)

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