Oakland rallies with three-run seventh

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- For nearly four years, the Angels'

bullpen has been the majors' closest thing to a sure thing.

When it falters, its opponents are almost as surprised as the

Los Angeles relievers -- but the Oakland Athletics have a knack for

doing the improbable this season.

Nick Swisher drove in the tying run before scoring on Mark

Ellis' infield single in the seventh inning, and the A's moved back

into a first-place tie with the Angels in the AL West, winning 4-3

Wednesday night.

Adam Melhuse homered and later scored on a wild pitch in a

three-run seventh against Scot Shields, one of the majors' best

relievers. The A's rallied for their 19th win in 22 games since

July 19, when they trailed the Angels by 8½ games.

Los Angeles won the series opener Tuesday night, but the clubs

attracted another huge crowd at the normally somnolent Coliseum,

with 45,131 fans packing the place -- and this time, they had

something to cheer.

Oakland trailed 7-0 in the second inning of the series opener.

With a clutch rally and some solid relief pitching in the rematch,

the A's provided more of the excitement and clutch play that has

propelled them into the playoff race.

"This team has been coming from behind all year," Swisher

said. "We just got some guys on base, which is all you can do.

They've got a heck of a bullpen. To be able to get that off them is

extra special."

Angels rookie Ervin Santana outpitched Barry Zito with six

innings of four-hit ball, leaving with a 2-1 lead -- but in the

seventh, Jay Payton tripled and scored on Swisher's single off

Shields (7-7). The right-hander had allowed just three earned runs

in his previous 26 innings.

After Melhuse singled, shortstop Orlando Cabrera couldn't make a

difficult play on Ellis' two-out grounder up the middle while

Swisher scored the go-ahead run. Shields then hit the backstop on

the fly with a pitch to Bobby Crosby, and Melhuse scored without a


"When their hitters get hot, it's hard to stop them," said

Shields, whose 10th-inning throwing error cost Los Angeles another

game in Oakland on April 16. "I hope it's 1-0, 2-1 in the eighth

inning again [Thursday]. I want some revenge on them. It hurts when

I can't hold the lead for Santana."

All-Star Justin Duchscherer (5-2) pitched a perfect seventh, and

Jay Witasick stranded a runner on third in the eighth.

Huston Street gave up Steve Finley's leadoff homer in the ninth

-- the first run allowed by the rookie closer since the All-Star

break -- but finished for his 14th save in 18 chances. Finley's

homer, which snapped an 0-for-14 skid, was the veteran's first

since June 10.

Bengie Molina hit a two-run double in the third inning for the

Angels, whose normally solid bullpen finally faltered. Los Angeles'

opponents entered the game with a .219 average against the

relievers -- the lowest mark in the majors.

But Shields, who leads AL relievers with 68 1/3 innings, allowed

four hits and three runs. Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't

worried about his bullpen's busiest member.

"His stuff was fine, [but] we didn't make a couple of plays

behind him, and they had some hits fall in," Scioscia said. "The

wild pitch certainly didn't help us, but it's just one tough

inning. Shields will be fine."

Jeff DaVanon was ejected by home plate umpire Brian Gorman after

the left fielder struck out looking to end the eighth inning.

Swisher's single preserved Zito's eight-game winning streak,

though Oakland's ace left-hander didn't get the decision for the

first time since June 22. Zito allowed just two hits in six

innings, but walked five and hit Vladimir Guerrero with a pitch

moments before Molina's double.

After Rich Harden was tagged for seven early runs in the series

opener, the A's were hoping for a strong outing from Zito to get

back in the series. But the A's ace never got on his game, needing

115 pitches -- 25 in the first inning alone -- to get through six


But Zito wasn't surprised when the A's rallied.

"We're a totally different team than we were in April," Zito

said. "We're totally resilient. The team confidence is the reason

that we do come back in a game like this."

Molina's double capped a two-out rally in the third. After Darin

Erstad walked and Guerrero was hit, Molina hit a drive into the

left field corner.

Melhuse, the seldom-used backup catcher getting a rare start as

the designated hitter, homered leading off the third.Game notes
OF Garret Anderson sat out for the Angels. ... Guerrero was

the 48th batter hit by a pitch from Zito, breaking Tim Hudson's

career record in Oakland. ... Scott Hatteberg and Mark Kotsay both

were held out of Oakland's lineup for another day. Hatteberg, who

has a strained muscle in his ribcage, will be re-evaluated Friday.

Kotsay, who has back problems, could be the A's designated hitter