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08/08/08 11:51 PM ET
A's, Braden remember how winning feels
Southpaw's solid effort vs. Tigers snaps long losing streak
By Andrew Gribble / MLB.com
DETROIT -- For the first time in 10 games, the A's realized that, yes, they can still win a Major League baseball game. Dallas Braden, on the other hand, made a different, unique discovery of his own. "Apparently," Braden said, "there is a third inning in Detroit." There were much more innings than that for Braden on this night -- seven, actually -- as the young left-hander tossed one of the finest outings of his career to help the A's snap a season-long 10-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Tigers on Friday. Almost a year ago to the day, Braden became the first A's pitcher to allow two home runs to the same player in the same inning, when the young left-hander was tagged twice by Magglio Ordonez in an eight-run second inning he wouldn't escape. So, it's safe to say, Friday's strong outing meant more to Braden than just any old win in August for an out-of-contention team. "It's a shot in the arm for the club," Braden said. "But for me, personally, it felt good to battle against virtually the same lineup and have a totally different story this time." Braden rewrote the story by controlling both sides of the plate with his fastball to set up his changeup -- Braden's most effective pitch, manager Bob Geren said. That control resulted in a number of quick at-bats and easy outs for Braden, as he needed just 97 pitches to limit the Tigers to two runs on five hits. The low pitch count came in handy, especially after Braden's start against the Red Sox on Sunday, where he battled a nasty stomach virus that caused him to lose eight pounds in just two or three days. "I started to get a little gassed," Braden said, "but I think the momentum of us starting to swing the bat replaced that. I just rode the adrenaline, really." The only blip on Braden's otherwise spotless outing came when he allowed a two-run Marcus Thames home run in the second inning, which put the A's in an early 2-0 hole. It could have easily been 3-0, though, as Braden picked off his de facto arch nemesis, Ordonez, who led off the inning with a single. "If you're going to go out and give up a home run and that's going to bother you, you're in the wrong game," Braden said. "You're in the wrong profession." Braden proved that he is, in fact, in the right profession when he scattered three hits -- all in different innings -- from that point forward. "I knew we were going to come back and get to their guy," Braden said. "He started to struggle a little bit and it was only a matter of time before we got in a groove." The Tigers' "guy" on this night was veteran lefty Kenny Rogers, and his struggles began in the fifth inning, when the A's small balled their way out of their 10-game losing streak. Carlos Gonzalez led off the inning with a bunt single, Kurt Suzuki followed with a walk and Daric Barton beat out a grounder to load the bases without putting the ball out of the infield. "[Rogers] kind of got wild and upset after that," Gonzalez said. "And we took advantage of it." Sparsely used Rajai Davis, in the lineup because of injuries to Jack Cust and Ryan Sweeney, tied it up with a bloop single and Mark Ellis followed with a one-out single to plate Barton and give the A's their first lead of the night. Emil Brown's solo homer in the sixth helped make matters a bit more stress-free as Braden handed the ball over to rookie phenom Brad Ziegler to start the eighth inning. The submarine-pitching Ziegler continued his storybook start to his career by tossing two more scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first career save. With the outing, Ziegler tied the A's club record, set by Mike Torrez in 1976, with 37 straight scoreless innings pitched. He made quick work of the Tigers with two strikeouts in the eighth inning before setting down Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield in the ninth to lock up just the third win for the A's since the All-Star break. "He couldn't have come into a more difficult situation than that," Geren said. "Everything he has done to this point is remarkable." Geren said he planned to have Ziegler work both innings and, when asked if Ziegler should be considered the A's closer now, the manager remained ambiguous. "I feel like he can do it," Geren said. The closer situation, of course, will gain more and more relevance if the A's start providing more save opportunities. Friday, though, could be considered the appropriate start, Geren said. "This was a big one," Geren said. "It was a really big relief for everybody." Braden especially.
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.