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October 10, 2006

 

A’s Zito happy with new identity

Zito

Associated Press/Ben Margots
Oakland Athletics’ pitcher Barry Zito kicks a ball during the team’s baseball practice inOakland Monday. Zito will be the starting pitcher in Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series that opens tonight.

By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. — For most of his career, Barry Zito has been defined as much by his teammates as his nasty, looping curveball.
His first postseason without fellow Big Three aces Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder has given the eccentric left-hander a new identity.
After outpitching Cy Young favorite Johan Santana in Oakland’s playoff opener last week at Minnesota, Zito gets another Game 1 start when the Athletics begin the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers tonight.
“He loved it when Huddy and Mulder left,” said third baseman Eric Chavez, who has played seven seasons with Zito. “He knew that was kind of his time to shine. He relished it. He hated the Big Three. He hated that name. He hated it. Now he’s kind of setting himself apart from the rest of them.”
The A’s never got out of the first round with the Big Three, losing in nine straight potential clinchers and four consecutive series from 2000-03. After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2004, general manager Billy Beane traded Hudson and Mulder in a three-day span to break up one of the game’s best trios — and Zito surprisingly was the one who stayed put to assume a leadership role for the A’s young staff.
He mentored Rich Harden, who spent time at spring training learning Zito’s routine. Dan Haren has done the same thing since coming to Oakland from St. Louis in the Mulder deal.
“It really gave me an opportunity to become a solidified No. 1,” Zito said. “For whatever reason, I had an opportunity to keep an eye on the little chicks, all the A’s players in the clubhouse.”
Zito didn’t know whether he had pitched his final home game in an A’s uniform before the All-Star break when rumors swirled he would be dealt, then again Sept. 22 in his last regular-season outing in the Coliseum against the Los Angeles Angels. He is expected to sign a big-money deal as a free agent once Oakland’s postseason run comes to an end.
Zito is not thinking that far ahead. He will take the mound on his biggest stage yet today, facing fellow left-hander Nate Robertson — one of Detroit’s many young power arms.
Both teams celebrated wildly after advancing to the ALCS.
The A’s finally ended what had begun to feel like a hex of first-round failures by sweeping the Twins. The Tigers, still hearing all about the club’s 119-loss showing from three years ago, overcame a late-season collapse that cost them the AL Central, then defeated the not-so-mighty-after-all New York Yankees.
Now, these teams must put the thrill of just getting past the first round behind them to focus on a best-of-seven series that both sides expect to be hard fought and without a clear-cut favorite.
“For us, it’s just about continuing on that high,” A’s first baseman Nick Swisher said. “So they had a little down time at the end of the year — so what.”
Both teams held raucous clubhouse parties in their home ballparks last week — first Oakland on Friday, then Detroit a day later.
“This is a loose ballclub. We’re happy to be here, but we’re here to win,” Oakland slugger Frank Thomas said. “We’ve stressed that throughout the last of the season and the playoffs so far. ... They were the biggest surprise in baseball all year long. We know what to expect. They’ve earned it.”
The Tigers went all out in the season’s final game to try to win the division to avoid opening the playoffs against the Yankees, using their top relievers and even bringing in starter Kenny Rogers out of the bullpen. They still ended up being swept by the lowly Kansas City Royals and settling for the wild card.
Yet it worked out just fine for first-year manager Jim Leyland’s team, which dropped Game 1 to New York before winning three straight.
“The sweep for the A’s against the Twins is history, and the great series win for us against the Yankees is history,” Leyland said. “Now this is a new chapter, which is what the playoffs are all about. ... Both teams are going to come out with confidence. Both teams have reason to be confident. Both teams had very good regular seasons. Both teams obviously had a very good playoffs so far.”

 

 

 

Foiled PAT try gives Elks win

The Elks had to stop a fourth quarter extra point try to salvage a 14-13 victory over PBA the Midgets Division of the Cortland Youth Bureau’s Small Fry Football League.
Quinn Kennedy scored twice as the Elks had a 14-7 lead in the fourth quarter, only to see the PBA’s Joe Piedigrossi break off a 23-yard touchdown run. When the extra point was stopped, the Elks had the victory. Paddy McSherry also had a TD run for PBA.
The Moose blanked Legion 18-0 as Anthony Riccotilli, Aiden Steham and Schott Schlenker had_TD scampers.
IN GIANTS DIVISION play, unbeaten PBA answered a first quarter touchdown by Legion’s Pat McMahon and reeled off three unanswered touchdowns en route to a 30-14.
The four PBA touchdowns came from four different players, as Andrew Potter, Caden Giroux, Jacob Gray and Connor Mulhern all had scoring runs. Isiah Prior broke off a 67-yard TD run in the second half for Legion.
Rob Shaw scored twice as Elks nipped VFW 12-6. Michael Pittman’s fourth quarter touchdown kept VFW close.

 

 

Rockets go 1-1

The DeRuyter Central boys’ soccer team is now 6-7-1 overall after splitting a pair of games inthe Poland Tournament over the weekend.
The Rockets fell to West Canada 4-1 on Saturday, with Chuck Grime scoring their only goal. Dustin McClure made seven saves and Brandon Meacham add four more as they split time in the DeRuyter nets.
The Rockets trailed Stockbridge Valley 1-0 at halftime of Sunday’s consolation game before rallying for a 4-1 win and a third-place finish. Grime had a goal and an assist for the winners, while Brandon Galloway, Nick Brown and Jacob Newton had a goal apiece and Kyle Vadala and Dave Revette each added an assist. Keeper Meacham made four saves.