- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s been five starts and nearly a month since Mark Mulder’s last complete game. But with the way the Oakland ace is pitching, he is expected to go deep into every start.

Mulder became the majors’ first 17-game winner despite not having his best stuff and lasting only six innings, as the Athletics moved a season-best 19 games over .500 Tuesday night with a 6-2 victory over the skidding Baltimore Orioles.

“My mechanics are a little off right now, and I don’t feel great out there,” he said. “I’m battling. Things are going to click soon.”

But there’s certainly something working for the All-Star left-hander. This time it was his offense, which staked him to a four-run lead in the first inning.

Eric Chavez and Jermaine Dye both homered for the A’s, who won for the eighth time in 10 games to maintain their half-game lead over Anaheim in the American League West

Everyone around the A’s — two-time defending division champions — is prepared for a tight West race through September.

“It’s going down to the end,” manager Ken Macha said. “Once we start playing in the division and they’re playing in the division, it’s going to get interesting.”

Mulder (17-4) also got a big boost from his bullpen after telling Macha following the sixth that it would be best to get him out of the game to avoid another jam. Chris Hammond, Chad Bradford, Arthur Rhodes and Jim Mecir allowed just one hit in three innings of relief.

The Orioles lost their eighth straight, scoring in the second on Darnell McDonald’s RBI groundout and in the fifth on a double by Melvin Mora. They’re on a season-high 13-game road trip — the club’s longest stretch away from home since 2000.

Sidney Ponson (8-13) struggled against the A’s lineup for the second straight start, allowing four runs on four hits in the first inning.

“I couldn’t hit the corners in the first,” he said. “The way they are playing, you just can’t pitch like that. I was trying to get everyone out on the first pitch in the first inning.”

Erubiel Durazo hit an RBI single in the first to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, matching his season high. The hit led to a two-base error by right fielder Jay Gibbons, who overthrew third trying to get Chavez. Mark Kotsay scored on Durazo’s hit and Chavez came home on the error, which got Durazo to third.

Dye followed with a two-run homer, sending an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left. He missed three games over the weekend at Tampa Bay with a strained left thumb, but has bounced back well. Dye also hit a tying two-run single in the sixth inning of Monday’s 4-3 win.

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