- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Oakland Athletics closer Billy Koch kept his hat tipped exactly halfway off his brow and held his hands motionless on his lap. His team was down a run in the ninth inning, and it needed all the good karma it could get.
It's part of baseball's charm that any run of success turns millionaire players into Little Leaguers afraid to jinx their team. The A's 19-game winning streak is the majors' longest in 55 years which simply means there's much more cause for caution.
"Of course, it's all in your head, but you don't want to be the one who ruined it," said Koch, who has nine saves and two victories since the streak began Aug.13. "Guys have the same pregame ritual, or they sit in the same spot in the dugout. I think everybody's washing their uniforms, though."
Koch's rituals worked even though he allowed a home run Sunday that left Oakland in trouble. But the A's rallied for a 7-5 victory over Minnesota, with Miguel Tejada hitting a three-run homer in the ninth inning to end it.
A day later, Tejada got another game-ending hit against the Kansas City Royals, stretching Oakland's streak to 19 and tying the 1906 Chicago White Sox and 1947 New York Yankees for the best run in American League history.
"We realize this is something for the record books," pitcher Barry Zito said. "It's so big that it's not going to set in for a while. Maybe when we're in the playoffs, we'll look back and say, 'Man, we were hitting on all cylinders for a long time there."'
After resting yesterday, the A's will go for their record-breaking 20th straight victory tonight, with Tim Hudson pitching against Royals ace Paul Byrd.
The A's streak is the third-longest since 1900. The New York Giants set the major league record with 26 consecutive wins in 1916 an age of near daily doubleheaders in September and month-long homestands that allowed the Giants to play every game of their streak at the Polo Grounds.
The A's must chase the Giants in the record books, but it's important to note that New York actually played a 1-1 tie midway through the streak in a game called because of weather. The tie didn't count in the standings, but statistics from the game stood.
"It's not a real 26," said Koch, one of the few A's interested in baseball history.
The only team with a longer streak and without ties was the 1935 Chicago Cubs, who won 21 in a row. The 1880 Cubs also won 21 straight, but that streak included a tie.
Each time Tejada raps a game-winning hit or one of their powerful starting pitchers beats an overmatched opponent, the A's remind the baseball world that it doesn't take a big budget to do big things.
Their payroll and fan support are among baseball's smallest. They also lost Jason Giambi their unquestioned team leader and top run-producer last season to the big-money Yankees.
The majority of the A's key players are in their first five seasons in the majors. Many of them were drafted by Oakland general manager Billy Beane, and they don't know any clubhouse atmosphere other than the good-natured fraternity house managed by Art Howe at the Coliseum, where everybody seems to get along.
"I think we've got the best team chemistry out there," Zito said.
Oakland has moved from third place in the AL West to the top of the league during the streak. The A's have outscored opponents 129-54 and they've only trailed in a handful of innings.


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