The Oakland A’s will go for the sweep of the three-game weekend series of the Angels on Sunday evening with sole possession of first place and the best record in the Major Leagues on the line.
The A’s earned their way back into a tie for first place with a 2-1 victory, with the winning run scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning, Saturday night to back up seven strong innings by starting pitcher Jon Lester.
Though Lester was saddled with a no-decision, he turned in exactly the effort that illustrates why the A’s traded for him at the deadline. He’s a big game pitcher that can go toe-to-toe with any lineup in baseball and any opposing pitcher. Oakland is now 4-1 in games that have been started by their new ace.
Among Lester’s highlights on the evening, he struck out Angels’ star Mike Trout three times. The only blemish on Lester’s evening was a RBI single by Erick Aybar to score Howie Kendrick in the seventh inning. At one point Lester had retired 10 straight Angels’ batters from the final out of the third inning through the first batter of the seventh inning. He finished with a pitching line of one earned run on five hits and one walk while striking out seven batters.
C.J. Wilson was every bit as good for the Angels, tossing 6.1 innings of one run ball on five hits and three walks. He struck out three A’s batters.
Oakland got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning when Sam Fuld singled home Jonny Gomes, and held that lead until Aybar’s RBI single in the seventh.
They got back on the board in their final at bat in the bottom of the eighth inning for the win.
Coco Crisp singled to lead off the eighth inning. Craig Gentry grounded out to the pitcher, Joe Smith, to move Crisp into scoring position at second base. Josh Donaldson followed with a ground out to second base that moved Crisp to third base. Derek Norris was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and third with two outs, prompting manager Bob Melvin to pinch hit Brandon Moss for Gomes.
Smith missed high with a wild pitch that allowed Coco to race home for a 2-1 lead and ultimately the win.
Luke Gregerson pitched a perfect eighth inning and Sean Doolittle threw an uneventful ninth inning for his 20th save of the season.
There was a moment of panic and uncertainty as Doolittle grimaced to catcher Derek Norris following the final at bat of the game.
It was revealed that on the second to last pitch he threw, he felt what he described as a “cramp” in his side. He was able to pass all of the tests the trainers put him through and stated that he believed he just needed to ice his side and see how it feels tomorrow, but that he was not concerned at this point — good news for the A’s.
The A’s will throw Scott Kazmir in the series finale tomorrow at 5 PM against Jered Weaver for the Angels as Oakland goes for the sweep and sole possession of first place in the American League West.