All-Star right-hander Dan Haren, perhaps. Or maybe their master of the two-hour pitchers' duel, Joe Blanton.
Both quality guesses.
Instead, the surprise hero Wednesday afternoon turned out to be Lenny DiNardo. The left-hander tossed a career-high seven innings and guided the A's to a 6-0 victory over the Texas Rangers before a matinee crowd of 23,440 at McAfee Coliseum.
The win snapped the A's nine-game losing streak, their longest since a nine-game skid from July 21-29, 1998. It was their first victory since July 5 against the Seattle Mariners, which came four days before the All-Star break.
"It was a really, really solid all-around baseball game," A's manager Bob Geren said. "I thought Lenny was tremendous."
For the first time in a while, music was blaring in the clubhouse, which only happens in celebration of a victory.
"We didn't get many hits (six) today, but we had some good at-bats," designated hitter Jack Cust said. "We're here to win ballgames and we hadn't been doing that."
A's players hardly are conceding the playoffs are out of reach, despite the trade of catcher Jason Kendall and the prospect that more players could be shipped off before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
But it never hurts to start planning for the future. And for a player such as DiNardo, whose status with the team is hardly cemented past this season , the rest of 2007 could be very crucial.
He kept the Rangers off-balance all day, scattering just three hits while striking out three and walking none.
DiNardo (4-6), who began the season in long relief but joined the rotation in late May, said he's clearly focused on the present.
"It's a big win," he said. "If that helps me out in the long run, so be it. Cool. But I'm looking forward to my next outing. If I do my job, things will fall into place."
He was the recipient of some early breathing room thanks to a four-run second inning that featured the kind of good fortune missing throughout the A's recent struggles.
A throwing error by Texas starter Kevin Millwood (6-8) on a force play at second base loaded the bases with no outs. Marco Scutaro lined a single up the middle for the A's first run, and Bobby Crosby walked to force in another.
After a sacrifice fly from Travis Buck, Shannon Stewart got jammed on an inside pitch and ended up with a broken-bat single to right field and a 4-0 lead.
"I felt like every run was big," Geren said. "... We had a broken-bat hit to drive in a run. We haven't seen too many of those go our way."
DiNardo's previous longest outing came in a 6-1/3-inning stint July 7 against Seattle, which oddly enough was in relief.
Wednesday's effort was welcome for DiNardo, who was 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA over his past six appearances (five starts).
"I was just keeping the ball down," he said. "I was using a lot of changeups. That makes my cutter even better. When I get the ball up is when I get in trouble."
Santiago Casilla mopped up in the final two innings, allowing one hit.
Crosby provided a nice sight for the A's by launching a solo homer to left field in the seventh. The shortstop has been slumping badly, and his two RBI give him a total of three for July.
The A's posted their ninth shutout, which broke a tie for the American League lead with Boston and Seattle.
Contact Joe Stiglich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A'S 6, RANGERS 0