Batista flirts with perfection against A's

Batista flirts with perfection against A's

OAKLAND -- In the clubhouse before Saturday's game, Juan Cruz was talking with that day's starting pitcher, Miguel Batista.

Cruz noted that Johnny Estrada was catching Batista and also made a suggestion.

"Just go out there and do your jobs, because you guys [make] a lot of millions, so show me you can do something," Batista remembered Cruz saying. Batista's salary is $4.75 million, while Estrada's is an even $2 million.

The right-hander reminded Cruz throughout the game in the dugout of his comments while he was in the process of holding the A's hitless through 6 2/3 innings and Estrada was driving in two runs during what would be a 7-2 Arizona win.

A long-standing tradition in baseball is that no one talks to a pitcher in the midst of a no-hitter, but while his teammates were trying to ignore him and stay quiet, Batista chatted easily with Cruz at one end of the bench.

"Everybody is trying to stay away from him and he talks to everybody," veteran left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "I got up when I saw him coming. Miggy's Miggy, he's just a different bird."

So what was Batista saying to Cruz?

"We were just talking," he said. "Waiting for the game to be over."

Batista was on top of his game from the first pitch, as he retired the first 20 Oakland hitters, taking the perfect game to two outs into the seventh inning.

Second baseman Orlando Hudson made the game's first hit-saving type play when he made a diving backhanded stop of Mark Kotsay's grounder and narrowly threw him out at first.

That brought Bobby Crosby to the plate and he quickly worked the count to 3-0.

"He was a guy that even when I got him out [in the past] he hit the ball hard," Batista said. "I didn't want to walk him, but I didn't want to give him a pitch to hit."

Crosby wound up walking on four pitches, which ironically brought a sigh of relief from Estrada, who thought he had wrecked the perfect game back in the third. In that inning, Estrada dropped Marco Scutaro's foul pop up for an error. Batista was able to strike Scutaro out on the next pitch, and since Scutaro didn't reach base, it technically still was a perfect game until the Crosby walk.

"We were working pretty good together out there, quick innings," Estrada said. "I might have been one of the only guys to be a little bit happy that he gave up a walk finally to knock away the perfect game, because if it had come down to that ball popping out of my glove, I probably wouldn't have been able to sleep at night."

It was still a no-hitter after the walk, but not long after as Frank Thomas put an end to it with a two-run homer to left field on a 2-2 cut fastball that caught a bit too much of the plate.

"I think it was a good pitch, but the wrong guy," Batista said. "Frank is a guy with a lot of material behind the bat, you know he didn't need to hit it good. He's big enough to just put the bat on the ball and still hit it out.

"I didn't want to go to 3-2 and then have to come around the plate again. It's not that I regret throwing it, but probably would have located it better."

As Thomas rounded the bases, Estrada walked to the mound and had a few words with Batista.

"When I gave up the home run, Johnny went to the mound and said, 'You better get this thing going or Cruz is going to be all over us,'" Batista said. "I guess we were more worried about showing Cruz that we were not overpaid."

Batista managed to keep the A's off the board, though not off the bases as he did allow two hits in the eighth, going the rest of the way to notch the complete-game victory and push his record to 8-5.

"I was glad he was able to go out there and finish it," D-Backs manager Bob Melvin said. "You could tell right away that he was throwing the ball where he wanted to. And when he does he's got such great movement, it's difficult to square him up."

Batista has struggled of late in large part because he hasn't done a good enough job of changing speeds on his pitches. Unable to locate his curve or changeup the way he's wanted to, he's been throwing fastballs and sliders more. There's not a real large difference in speed between those two pitches, which makes them easier to hit.

When the speeds between pitches vary more as they did on Saturday, hitters tend to be more off balance when they swing.

"He really stretched out his gap between his offspeed stuff and hard stuff," Melvin said.

For a while, it looked like the D-Backs would have trouble scoring Saturday as well with Esteban Loaiza holding them hitless through three and scoreless through six.

In the seventh, though, the D-Backs busted out with six runs on seven hits, including five two-out RBI hits.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.