Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson Lead A’s Past Angels 9-5

Following a four-game series split against the Detroit Tigers earlier in the week, the Oakland Athletics welcomed the Los Angeles Angels to town for a three-game weekend set Friday evening.

The Angels (30-23 heading into Friday night’s game) entered town on a recent hot-streak, having cut the A’s (32-22 heading into Friday’s game) division lead down to just 1.5 games entering play. The division rivals set up for a nice pitching duel in the series opener, sending Drew Pomeranz (4-2, 1.38 ERA) against Garrett Richards (4-1, 3.00 ERA).

Although Pomeranz held up his end through the first inning, the same could not be said of Richards’ performance. Ultimately, neither pitcher turned in a performance that was truly “dominant” enough to be considered for a pitcher’s duel, but the A’s offense handed their starter enough runs to give him his fifth win of the season and push the division lead to 2.5 games by improving to 33-22 on the season (dropping the Angels to 30-24).

Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson combined for eight of the A’s nine RBI on the night as the A’s handed the Angels a 9-5 loss.

Pomeranz, who has been excellent since being inserted into the A’s rotation, made quick work of the Angels in the top of the first inning. Erick Aybar quickly recorded the first out, grounding out to All-Star hopeful Josh Donaldson at third base. Pomeranz then struck out Mike Trout and Albert Pujols back-to-back .

Coco Crisp lead off the A’s half of the first inning with a single to left field on a 3-2 pitch from Richards. John Jaso followed up with a grounder through the hole between first and second and past a diving Pujols to move Crisp all the way to third and give Oakland runners on the corners with no outs. Josh Donaldson drew a walk from Richards to load the bases and draw the Angels pitching coach out of the dugout for an early check up on his starting pitcher. Brandon Moss, making a bid for his first All Star selection, padded his stats with a grand slam over the right field scoreboard to give the A’s a 4-0 lead before a single out was recorded.

Following a Yoenis Cespedes strikeout, the first out of the inning, Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick both hit back-to-back singles to left field to give the A’s runners on first and second and bring up Derek Norris. Norris drew a walk and the A’s had the bases loaded again, with just one out for Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo struck out for the second out, and Crisp came up as the tenth batter in the inning. Crisp drew a walk to bring in Lowrie and push the score to 5-0 with the bases still loaded, ending Garrett Richards’ night very early as the Angels turned to the bullpen and called in Wade LeBlanc.

LeBlanc struck out Jaso after working a full count, limiting the damage to Garrett Richards’ stat line for the evening. The final line for Richards wound up being five runs on five hits and three walks in 2/3 of an inning pitched.  His ERA jumped from 3.00 to 3.65.

David Freese led off the second inning with a long fly ball that looked like it would wind up against the wall in the gap for extra bases. Josh Reddick made a long running catch to retire Freese though and record the first out. Howie Kendrick followed with a ground ball to Lowrie at shortstop for the second out of the inning. C.J. Cron popped up to Moss in foul territory for the second 1-2-3 inning for Pomeranz on the mound.

Donaldson got things going quickly for the A’s again in the bottom half of the second inning with an opposite field homer on an 0-1 pitch to push the score to 6-0. Mike Scioscia came out to question whether the ball cleared the yellow line over the scoreboard and the umpires decided to check the replay, but ultimately the home run was confirmed (it was ruled a “crew chief review” and the Angels were not charged with their challenge).

Aside from a walk by Lowrie, the A’s wouldn’t do much else against LeBlanc in the second. Moss, Cespedes and Reddick were all retired on fly outs.

Chris Iannetta led off the Angels half of the third inning with a walk, becoming the first Angels’ baserunner, but was stranded on first following a lineout by Grant Green and back-to-back strikeouts of Collin Cowgill and Aybar to end the inning.

Norris lined out to right field to open up the A’s half of the third inning and Callaspo popped out to shortstop for a quick two outs. Crisp gave the A’s offense a little life against LeBlanc by singling to right field for his second hit of the night, having reached base all three times to this point in the game including his first inning walk. LeBlanc hit Jaso on a 2-2 pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs for Donaldson, and he did not disappoint, singling through the right side of the infield to score Crisp and push the lead to 7-0.

With the big lead, manager Bob Melvin took the opportunity to get some at bats for Kyle Blanks, pinch hitting the recently acquired infielder for Moss. Blanks hit a grounder up the middle that was cut off by the shortstop Aybar whose throw to first barely beat Blanks for the third out.

It was later revealed the Moss was experiencing some tightness in his right calf, which contributed to the decision to remove him from the game despite his earlier grand slam.

Mike Trout broke up the no-hit bid by Pomeranz with his 11th homer of the season on a long shot off the stairs to the camera stands in centerfield to lead off the top of the fourth inning.

Following a groundout by Pujols, Freese walked to put a runner on first for Kendrick, who unloaded with a homer of his own to score Freese and cut the A’s lead to 7-3.  Drew bounced back to get Cron to pop out to second base and Iannetta to line out to Callaspo for the final out.

Green tried to start a rally for his new team, lining a double down the left field line to lead off the top half of the fifth inning for the Angels but was stranded on second as Pomeranz set down the next three Angels’ batters in order.

Jaso beat out an infield hit to the second baseman Kendrick with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Donaldson responded to the extended inning by connecting for his second home run of the game, his second career multi-homer game and 15th homer of the season, to push the score to 9-3.

Blanks grounded to shortstop but Aybar could not handle the play for an infield single. He advanced to second on a wild pitch by LeBlanc but was stranded there as Cespedes struck out for the second time of the game to end the inning.

The Angels continued to claw their way back into the game in the top half of the sixth inning. Freese got things going with his one out walk and advanced to second on Kendrick’s single to right field. C.J. Cron then hit a sharp line drive to left field that Yoenis Cespedes lunged for but missed, tipping off the end of his glove, allowing both Freese and Kendrick to come all the way around to score and Cron to advance to second.

Cron’s double came off reliever Dan Otero, who took over for Pomeranz following Kendrick’s single. The final pitching line for Pomeranz was five earned runs on four hits, three walks and five strikeouts over 5.1 innings pitched. He improves to 5-2 on the season and his ERA remains an impressive 2.37.

Otero retired Iannetta and Green to strand Cron at second and end the Angels’ threat.

Kole Calhoun, pinch hitting for Collin Cowgill, walked to lead off the inning. Calhoun was called out on a fielder’s choice on a ball hit by Eric Aybar, leaving Aybar at first base with one out. Trout followed with an infield single to put runners at first and second with one out. Pujols grounded into a fielder’s choice with Trout out at second for the second out, moving Aybar to third and placing runners at the corners for David Freese.

Oakland went to their bullpen again, bringing in Luke Gregerson to relieve Otero and try to record the final out of the inning and strand the Angels’ runners. Gregerson promptly retired Freese on strikes to preserve the A’s 9-5 lead. He returned to pitch a perfect eighth inning before giving way to Sean Doolittle in the ninth.

Doolittle retired Green on a fly out to right field for the first out of the inning and Calhoun on strikes for the second out. Aybar lined a single over Lowrie’s head to allow Trout to come to bat in the inning but Doolittle set him down on strikes to end the game.

Coco Crisp and John Jaso both turned in 2-for-4 performances. Josh Donaldson finished the night 3-for-4 with his two home runs and Brandon Moss was 1-for-2 with his grand slam and four RBI before being lifted with a tight calf.

The A’s will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1974 World Series Championship tomorrow evening with a pre-game ceremony featuring many members of the ’74 team. Those arriving early enough to stand in line, will be rewarded with Jim “Catfish” Hunter bobbleheads (15,000 being given away) to commemorate the occasion.