Bullpen bails out Eveland, Athletics

Bullpen bails out Eveland, A's

OAKLAND -- After throwing his 100th and final pitch for a ball, walking the bases loaded with a one out in the sixth inning and his A's nursing a one-run lead Monday night, Dana Eveland walked off the mound to polite, tepid applause from the home crowd.

Two pitches later, Brad Ziegler walked off the mound -- to genuinely wild applause, and into history.

The routine double-play ball Ziegler coaxed from Jose Lopez wasn't just the biggest of many big plays in Oakland's 4-3 victory in the opener of a four-game series against the Mariners at McAfee Coliseum.

It also extended his career-opening streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 16 2/3, passing Steve Chitren's Oakland record of 16 1/3, set in 1990.

"My job is to throw strikes, keep the ball down and get double plays when we need them," said Ziegler, who was called up from Triple-A Sacramento on May 30. "So I guess that's a really fitting way to get the record."

Ziegler, 28, rolled another double-play ball in the seventh and retired the first batter of the eighth, pushing the record to an even 18 innings. With four more scoreless frames, Ziegler will tie the American League career-opening record set by Dave "Boo" Ferriss of the 1945 Red Sox.

"Ziggy is just ridiculous right now," said Eveland, who put the A's in an early hole when he gave up a three-run homer to Richie Sexson in the first inning. "Ziggy is a machine."

So, for the time being, is another one of the five rookies the injury-ravaged A's played Monday.

First baseman Wes Bankston, fresh off a four-game series in Chicago in which he went 7-for-16 (.438), doubled to the deepest part of the park in the third and scored on a Mark Ellis single to start Oakland's comeback. Two innings later Bankston blasted his first career homer.

"I thought my first hit was a homer, too," Bankston said of his double, which slammed the wall in center field. "But I've always been told this place is bigger, so I'll definitely be running faster next time I hit it to center field like that."

Seattle's Willie Bloomquist needed to be running a little faster when he tried to extend the Mariners' lead on Raul Ibanez's second-inning single to center. Oakland rookie Carlos Gonzalez unleashed a no-hop dart to the plate that nailed Bloomquist a good two feet up the third-base line.

"That was perfect ... just perfect," said Gonzalez. "I feel really excited every time I make a play like that. It's like hitting a home run."

A solo homer, perhaps. Bankston's was a two-run shot that knotted the score.

"That felt great," Bankston said. "It was exciting, especially for it to tie the game. I was looking for something up so I could drive it."

It was up -- a first-pitch curveball from Seattle starter Jarrod Washburn -- and Bankston drove it over the wall in left-center.

"I didn't even go back and look at it," Washburn said. "Obviously, it must not have been a very good pitch. Last thing I thought of was him being on a first-pitch backdoor breaking pitch. Right there is a perfect example of not knowing the hitters. I hadn't faced him before.

"Usually, Oakland guys are very patient and take some pitches, and I thought I would get a nice first-pitch strike. I don't know if he was guessing breaking ball or what."

Washburn obviously didn't know that Bankston, 24, isn't really an "Oakland guy." He signed as an 18-year-old with Tampa Bay, and this is his first year in the A's organization. Prior to being called up from Sacramento last week, he'd had 2,508 Minor League at-bats.

"All the work you go through to get to this point makes it really special," Bankston said. "Now I have to work even harder to stay here."

Yet another A's rookie, outfielder Ryan Sweeney, is no doubt in the big leagues to stay. He provided what proved to be the game-winning hit with a two-out single later in the fifth to score ... wait for it ... rookie Gregorio Petit, who had doubled with one out.

Sweeney is 9-for-27 with four multiple-hit games and five RBIs in seven games since missing a three-game series June 27-29 against the Giants with a sprained left ankle.

"He's been swinging the bat great for about a month now," A's manager Bob Geren said. "The coaches and I have been talking about [how far he's come this year] and we all agree -- he's going to be a special player. He really is. He's a very impressive player right now."

Not so impressive Monday was Eveland, who improved to 7-5 despite allowing 14 baserunners (nine hits, four walks, a Petit error) while getting just 16 outs.

"I just couldn't get locked in," Eveland said. "I wasn't sharp tonight at all."

He pitched well in traffic, though, and got plenty of help from his teammates -- including closer Huston Street, who wiggled out of a two-on, one-out trap in the ninth to lock down his 17th save of the season.

"I got pretty lucky tonight," Eveland admitted. "A lot of guys did a lot of great things to pick me up."

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.