OAKLAND — Miguel Tejada and the Oakland Athletics simply refuse to lose — even when the degree of difficulty gets higher and higher.
Tejada got his second straight game-ending hit as the A’s matched the longest winning streak in AL history with their 19th straight victory Monday, beating the Kansas City Royals 7-6.
David Justice homered and drove in four runs as Oakland overcame a 5-0 deficit and a terrible start by ace Barry Zito to equal the 19 straight wins recorded by the 1906 White Sox and matched by the 1947 Yankees.
With their second straight victory in their final at-bat, the A’s recorded the fifth-longest streak in major league history and the third longest since 1900.
With the bases loaded and the score tied at 6 in the ninth, Tejada drove a sharp one-out single through five drawn-in infielders. The hit sparked a replay of the raucous Coliseum celebration on Sunday, when Tejada’s dramatic three-run homer beat Minnesota.
For the third straight day, the A’s streak seemed to be in serious jeopardy. In the fifth inning, Oakland trailed 5-0 and hadn’t managed a hit against Kansas City starter Runelvys Hernandez, while Zito had been battered by the Royals’ light-hitting lineup.
But Oakland rallied with Justice’s two-run homer in the fifth and four more runs in the sixth, capped by Justice’s two-run single that put Oakland up 6-5.
Kansas City tied it in the eighth and loaded the bases in the ninth, but Tejada turned Neifi Perez’s grounder into an inning-ending double play.
With the pulsating Coliseum sensing another victory, Terrence Long led off the ninth with a triple to left against Jason Grimsley (3-5). The Royals intentionally walked Greg Myers and Ray Durham to load the bases.
With five infielders stacked behind Grimsley, Kansas City got Long at home plate on Scott Hatteberg’s grounder — but Tejada, whose dramatic three-run homer won Sunday’s game, singled up the middle on Grimsley’s first pitch.
A’s closer Billy Koch (8-2), appearing for the fourth straight day, got his second straight victory despite pitching into big trouble in the ninth.
Zito wasted a chance to become the AL’s first 20-game winner with one of the worst starts of his outstanding career. He yielded 10 hits and five runs, leaving the mound in the sixth with his head hung low.
Perez had four hits for the Royals, who had 14 hits and plenty of chances to put away the A’s.
Zito’s troubles began with a bizarre play. Perez led off the third with a line drive into the left-field corner. Justice sprinted after the ball and leaped at the wall to catch it — but the ball hit the bottom of Justice’s glove and ricocheted over the fence, turning a probable double into a homer.
Zito gave up a long homer to A.J. Hinch on his very next pitch.
Carlos Beltran had a two-run single in a three-run fourth, keyed by an error by Tejada, as Kansas City took a 5-0 lead.
Hernandez retired 12 of Oakland’s first 13 hitters and cruised into the fifth, when he appeared to throw a pitch at Jermaine Dye’s head. Dye glared at Hernandez, and on the next pitch, he beat out an infield single for the first hit. Justice followed with his 11th homer of the season.
In the sixth, Hatteberg had an RBI double before Eric Chavez and Justice got run-scoring singles.
Kansas City tied it in the eighth when Perez scored on Luis Ordaz’s double-play grounder.
Notes: The Royals recalled OF Dee Brown from Triple-A Omaha. Brown, who made Kansas City’s opening day roster in 2001, had spent the entire season in Omaha, hitting .278 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs. ... A’s reliever Jim Mecir began serving his three-game suspension for hitting Chicago’s Royce Clayton two weeks ago. ... Mike Sweeney, who’s neck-and-neck with Bernie Williams for the AL batting lead, pinch-hit in the seventh with two runners on and two outs. He flied out to center.