OAKLAND -- Mark Mulder picked up where he left off in 2003, Jermaine Dye continued to conjure images of 2001 and Arthur Rhodes put a bow on it all by doing something that, for him, had zero historical precedence at all.
It's a mere two days into the journey, but the 2004 A's are right where they want to be after Mulder, Dye and Rhodes played starring roles Tuesday in a 3-1 win over the visiting Rangers.
Mulder, who won 15 games last year before his season was cut short in mid-August by a stress fracture in his right leg, scattered five hits through seven quick innings to pick up the win.
Dye, who hasn't looked this good since breaking his leg in the playoffs three years ago, snapped a 1-1 tie with a monster two-run homer in the sixth.
And then there was Rhodes, who never before had been a full-time closer in his previous 13 big-league seasons. He nailed down his second save in two nights with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Mark Mulder / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
"That's a nice way to win a game," said A's manager Ken Macha. "We're seeing a lot of people do the kinds of things we've been hoping for out of them."
Topping that list is Mulder, who spent a month on the disabled list in 2002, then a month and a half on the shelf last year. Adding to Oakland's angst, his workload was limited this spring by a couple of bouts with a balky back. But all of that faded like one of his feathery changeups Tuesday, when he tore through the Texas lineup in short order, facing only four batters over the minimum with a tidy 94-pitch effort.
"It's good to finally feel completely healthy," said Mulder, who outlasted a game Chan Ho Park of the Rangers in a game that was over a mere 125 minutes after it started. "It just feels good to be able to go out there and make pitches and not have to worry about anything else."
Dye has been striking much the same tone ever since he arrived at Spring Training. The leg and shoulder problems that cost him two stints on the disabled list in 2003, when he hit a career-low .172 with four homers, prompted him to work with an outside fitness professional for the first time in his career in the offseason, and that work is paying off in a big way early on in the new campaign.
Jermaine Dye / RF
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
After a solid spring, he collected two hits and two RBIs on Opening Night, then spoiled an otherwise solid night for Park by slamming a no-doubter into the left-center bleachers to cap a three-run rally in the sixth inning.
"I can remember when he came over here in 2001 [in a trade-deadline deal with the Royals], and he hit a lot of balls into those left-center seats," Macha said. "So to see him doing that again, that's a pretty good sign."
"I'm real comfortable," said Dye, who's about as expansive on his own exploits as Tom Arnold is modest on his. "I'm seeing the ball really well."
Park, who struck out eight, allowed only three hits through the first five innings, but his spell over Oakland wore off in a big way when the heart of the A's order finally rewarded Mulder for his economical efforts. Bobby Kielty lined a triple off the wall in right with one out in the sixth, Eric Chavez singled him home through a drawn-in infield to tie the game and Dye did the rest.
Mulder expressed his gratitude by cruising through the top of the seventh, then handed the lead to Oakland's bullpen. Right-hander Jim Mecir worked a perfect eighth, and Rhodes followed suit in the ninth. For a first-time closer whose spring was less than awe-inspiring, Rhodes is looking mighty comfortable all of a sudden.
Arthur Rhodes / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
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