5-30-07 - Dan Haren is the new ace for the Athletics, and he pitched that way again Wednesday. The right-hander acquired in the Mark Mulder trade with St. Louis three Decembers ago sure has taken on a key role.
"He's definitely earned it," teammate Eric Chavez said of Haren's No. 1 status.
Haren won his sixth straight decision, Dan Johnson drove in three runs and Milton Bradley hit an RBI double after coming off the disabled list in Oakland's 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Haren (6-2) lowered his ERA to an AL-leading 1.64. He gave up four hits in eight innings and kept Sammy Sosa in check, too. Haren's modest about his emergence, and doesn't even want to talk about his chances of being an All-Star for the first time.
"We lose our leader in (Barry) Zito, and I don't think one guy has stepped up and been our leader," Haren said. "I think everyone has stepped up and made us a better staff than we were last year."
Sosa went 0-for-4 and remained two home runs from becoming the fifth player to reach the 600 mark. He hasn't hit one out since May 22 off Minnesota's Johan Santana, Sosa's 10th homer of the year.
Sosa flied out in the first and third innings, then fouled out on the first pitch leading off the sixth. He grounded out to start the ninth.
His manager isn't worried about Sosa pressing.
"He'll probably tell you he's not, but he probably is," manager Ron Washington said before the game. "It's only human nature. When he least expects it, that's probably when it's going to happen."
Michael Young doubled in a run in the third for Texas, which called up John Koronka (0-2) from Triple-A Oklahoma to make the start -- the second straight game the Rangers went to the minors for their pitcher.
Koronka's thoughts afterward?
"You want to talk about that embarrassing performance?" he said of his rough 5 1-3 innings. "I couldn't throw an off-speed pitch for a strike."
Mike Wood pitched the Rangers to victory Tuesday night, when they ended a season-worst six-game losing streak with a 4-0 win, their third shutout of the year and second against the A's.
Haren has been Oakland's go-to guy in the rotation with Rich Harden on the disabled list. Haren struck out four and walked three, and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 12 starts this season.
"I've always been impressed by him," Young said. "He's aggressive, throws strikes and goes after hitters. He has a dominant strikeout pitch. This year, he's just showing the numbers."
Haren received plenty of run support this time, which has hurt him in the past.
Johnson hit a two-run triple and a sacrifice fly. Shannon Stewart, Nick Swisher and Bobby Crosby also hit doubles and Travis Buck added a sacrifice fly for the A's, who bounced back after stranding 12 runners a night earlier.
Johnson hit his first triple and the second of his career.
"I never thought that would happen," he said. "I always joke about it: It takes me a calendar day to get to third."
As planned, Bradley came off the DL -- his second stint already this year with a strained left hamstring -- and manager Bob Geren will have his projected starting outfield intact for the first time all season Friday when center fielder Mark Kotsay is activated.
Kotsay had surgery on his back in early March.
Marco Scutaro started at second for the second straight game while Mark Ellis nurses a swollen right knee.
Ellis was examined by a team doctor and could play again as soon as Friday, though his first child -- a boy to be named Briggs -- is scheduled to be induced during Thursday's off-day and he is unsure if he will be back to work the opener of a weekend series with the Twins.