The A’s started their new prized pitcher for the first time Saturday afternoon, and promptly handed him his first victory in green and gold.
Jon Lester, acquired at the trade deadline Thursday for Yoenis Cespedes, pitched 6 2/3 solid innings, allowing three runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out three batters. He left the game to a standing ovation and tipped his cap to the appreciative and loud O.co Coliseum crowd as he departed with an 8-3 lead.
While allowing three runs is hardly great by Lester’s standards, earning the win in his debut was a nice way to engrace himself to an A’s crowd that was perhaps a bit leery of trading away a big bat such as Cespedes for another starting pitcher after Jason Hammel has failed to win a game since joining the A’s.
The other new A’s players also came through big in the game with Sam Fuld making a bid for play-of-the-year on a catch and throw out at the plate to end a Royals’ threat in the fourth inning on the double play. If you didn’t see the play, take the time to watch it below.
It was a huge play that kept the A’s close at a time when the Royals were leading the game 1-0 and the lineup was showing no signs of life.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the offense finally showed up. Through the first four innings all 12 A’s batters that had gone to the plate had been retired in order. In the fifth inning, the A’s sent 12 men to the plate, collecting eight hits and scoring eight runs.
Derek Norris led off the inning with a double against Royals’ starter Jason Vargas. Jonny Gomes followed with a lost-in-the-sun single that dropped right in front of first baseman Billy Butler. Stephen Vogt attempted to bunt the runners over, but Norris was thrown out at third base for the first out, leaving runners at first and second. Alberto Callaspo lined a single to center field to bring home Gomes for the first A’s run in the past 20 innings.
Josh Reddick continued his resurgence since coming off the DL with a line drive single to right field to bring home Vogt and give the A’s the lead. Nick Punto kept the hit parade going with a single of his own to bring home Callaspo and move Reddick over to second. Fuld dropped a drag bunt down the first base line and beat it out for a single, advancing Reddick and Punto to load the bases with still just one out in the inning. Jed Lowrie came up and added a single to the A’s hit column, bringing home Reddick and leaving the bases loaded. Josh Donaldson drew a walk to bring home another run and keep the bases loaded again.
Norris, who had led off the inning, came up for his second at bat of the inning but struck out for the second out. Gomes apparently wanted to make a bigger impact in his home coming than just being the first run of the game, lining a single to left field that skipped past Alex Gordon and rolled all the way back to the wall, clearing the bases with Gomes winding up on third base and Oakland in front 8-1. Gomes was given a base hit and two RBI on the play and Gordon was charged with an error that allowed one unearned run to score and Gomes to advance two bases.
Ryan Cook pitched a perfect inning and a third in relief of Lester and Jesse Chavez came in for his first relief appearance of the season, allowing a walk and a hit in a scoreless ninth inning.
The A’s had lost Friday night’s opener by the score of 1-0, but have now split the season series 1-1 and will look to win the series tomorrow afternoon behind Scott Kazmir on the hill.