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08/24/08 2:17 AM ET
Eveland shuts down Mariners for seven
Barton gets offense going with two-run homer in fourth inning
By Jesse Baumgartner / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Athletics starting pitcher Dana Eveland had been raising his hands over his head during his full windup ever since he was a kid and saw the motion from his favorite pitcher -- strikeout king Nolan Ryan. But Ryan will have to forgive the young lefty, because after throwing seven dominant innings on Saturday night against the Mariners while keeping those hands close to his body, it's a safe bet Eveland will be sticking with the change. Limiting Seattle to just five hits and a run, Eveland won his first start since coming back up from Triple-A Sacramento and led the Athletics to a 5-1 victory in front of 34,145 at Safeco Field. The happy Eveland enthusiastically greeted the media after the game as he discussed the still-fresh night of success. "It was an all-around good day. I don't even know what to say right now," he mentioned at one point. Eveland went down to the Minors on Aug. 3 after starting all year for Oakland, and he worked on various mechanical issues -- including the windup -- while focusing on attacking the strike zone during his three starts with the River Cats. "I simplified the delivery so much that it feels the same to me basically -- the stretch and the windup," he said. "I start with my hands in the same spot and the only difference is I'm not lifting my leg quite as high, and I don't turn into the rubber. But other than that, it feels almost exactly the same, which is nice." And the strike zone message apparently hit home in his first start since being called back up on Thursday, as Eveland started off the game by throwing 14 of his 16 first-inning pitches for strikes. He would end his outing with a 64/29 strike-ball ratio and just one walk allowed in his seven innings. He also threw first-pitch strikes to the first nine hitters he faced. "Hitting my spots, throwing a lot of strikes, that's the idea," Eveland said. "It's the easy way to get people out, they say." The immediate results from Eveland's adjustments drew high praise from manager Bob Geren, as well. "All of his pitches were never really in question when he was here the first time, it's just the command in the strike zone," Geren said. "I think that little tweak in his delivery made a huge difference and it showed tonight ... the ball-to-strike ratio was incredible. It was what guys need to do to be successful at this level, and he did it." Only one runner made it to second base in the first six innings, and Eveland finished his night with a season-high-tying seven strikeouts against the one walk. His one blemish came on an RBI double by Wladimir Balentien in the seventh inning. With Eveland cruising along, the Athletics needed only to provide a little cushion on the offensive end, which they did with a balanced 10-hit attack. The first two runs came on towering two-run homer to right-center field by Daric Barton with two outs in the fourth off Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn. "It's been tough facing him. I've faced him a few times, and I don't know if I had gotten a hit off him before tonight," Barton said. "And he just left one in the zone, and I took advantage of it." Those runs would have been enough, but the Athletics added another run in the fifth on a Bobby Crosby RBI single and two more in the seventh on the strength of three singles. Crosby has started to come around this series with his bat. He went 3-for-5 on Friday and followed that up with three more hits on Saturday and two RBIs. Even his out in the ninth inning was a line shot that nearly made it into the right-center field gap. But the story of the night was Eveland, who made a strong statement in his first game back and secured some validation for the work he put in down in Sacramento. And his success on the mound also gave the Athletics an opportunity to break their team-record, 11-series losing streak with a win on Sunday. "It was a good day all around. It felt real good to get out there again and to win again is a bonus," Eveland said. "And we'll try to do what we can to win a series, hopefully."
Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.