Following an on field celebration honoring the 40th Anniversary of the A’s third consecutive World Series Championship (1972, 1973,1974) in the early 1970’s, the A’s went back to work in their quest to repeat as back-to-back-to-back American League West Division Champions against the Los Angeles Angels Saturday evening. The A’s won the series opener Friday night 9-5.
Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.50 ERA entering play) took the mound for the A’s against Tyler Skaggs (4-2, 3.97 ERA) of the Angels.
Neither pitcher pitched particularly well, although Milone managed to keep the A’s in the game and the offense bailed him out late in route to a lopsided 11-3 win to move the A’s 3.5 games in front of the Angels in the American League West.
It appeared Milone, who did not factor into the decision, was working out of trouble early and often in this game.
Eric Aybar singled on a line drive to left field to leadoff the game and advanced to second on a throwing error to second by third baseman Josh Donaldson on Grant Green’s would-be ground out to put runners on first and second with no outs. Albert Pujols proceeded to load the bases with a single to A’s right fielder Josh Reddick.
Milone responded by striking out David Freese , getting Howie Kendrick to pop out on the infield fly rule to second base and C.J. Cron to ground out to Jed Lowrie at shortstop and prevent the Angels from scoring.
Milone found himself in trouble again in the second inning, allowing hits to Chris Iannetta and Kole Calhoun. With runners on first and second, Collin Cowgill singled to left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and it briefly appeared that the Angels would take the lead with Iannetta scoring. Cespedes released a bullet to Derek Norris at the plate though and following an umpire review, Iannetta was correctly called out for the first out of the inning.
Following a strikeout of Aybar for the second out, Green singled to left and once again it appeared that the Angels would jump ahead, but once again Cespedes would gun down the runner at the plate with Norris applying the tag on Calhoun for the final out of the inning. It took a pair of outfield assists by Cespedes, but Milone escaped the first two innings unscathed despite having allowed six hits.
Despite recording a 1-2-3 inning in the third, Milone couldn’t escape trouble in the fourth inning. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Iannetta drew a walk and Calhoun singled to put two runners on for former A’s outfielder Collin Cowgill. Cowgill on a 2-0 pitch and sent one deep into the left field bleachers that put the Angels up 3-0.
It appeared the rally would continue following Aybar’s one out double, but Green lined a ball that appeared to be headed to left for a base hit, only to see a leaping Josh Donaldson make the catch and double up Aybar who was charging towards third and could not retreat back in time.
Donaldson drew a walk in the A’s half of the fourth inning with one out following Lowrie’s ground out. He advanced to third on Cespedes’ double down the left field line and beat the throw home to score on Norris’ sacrifice fly a batter later. It appeared we were going to see a third runner thrown out trying to score, but Donaldson was able to slide just around the tag by Iannetta and was called safe on the play. Callaspo grounded out to end the rally, but the A’s were finally on the board down just 3-1.
Kyle Blanks cut the deficit to one with a first pitch homer (his second of the season) to left field to lead off the A’s half of the seventh inning. Coco Crisp, pinch hitting for Josh Reddick, followed Blanks’ homer with a single into the gap in left center. Nick Punto kept things going with a single of his own through the hole between first and second to advance Crisp to second put runners on first and second still with no outs in the inning. Craig Gentry moved both runners into scoring position with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt down the first base line for the first out of the inning. The Angels responded by intentionally walking Lowrie to load the bases and setup the opportunity for the double play and out at any base.
Donaldson was able to avoid hitting into the double play, instead just grounding out to first base but picking up the RBI to tie the game at 3-3 and take Milone off the hook for the loss. Punto and Lowrie both advanced to second and third with Cespedes at the plate as the A’s looked to take the lead for the first time on the evening.
Cespedes cleared the bases with a laser to right field that Calhoun could not get a glove on. The ball went all the way to the wall and Cespedes never slowed as he cruised into third with a two-RBI triple to give the A’s a 5-3 lead.
Derek Norris followed Cespedes’ triple with a walk and Alberto Callaspo broke the game open with a double down the right field line that barely stayed fair to bring home both Cespedes and Norris and give Oakland a 7-3 lead.
In the bottom half of the eighth inning, the A’s added to their lead to make it 8-3. Coco Crisp walked to lead off the inning, stole second base for his tenth steal of the season, and scored on an RBI single by Craig Gentry to left field.
Following Gentry’s single, and steal of second base, Lowrie walked to put runners on first and second. Cespedes big-night continued with a screamer of a home run on a 2-0 pitch into the left field stands to clear the bases again and give the A’s an 11-3 lead.
Cespedes finished the night with five RBI on his 3-for-5 night, missing only a single to have completed the cycle and matching his career high in RBI. Gentry added a 2-for-4 performance as the A’s wound up with 11 runs on just nine hits, though they did walk nine times.
Fernando Abad came in to pitch a perfect for Oakland in the ninth inning following shutout innings by Fernando Rodriguez and Luke Gregerson in the seventh and eighth innings respectively.
Tommy Milone finished with a pitching line of six innings pitched and three earned runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out three. Fernando Rodriguez earned the win in relief of Milone.
An interesting note, the error by Josh Donaldson allowed the A’s to push their record to 20-9 when they commit at least one error, compared to 14-13 in games in which they do not commit any errors. This is probably not a trend that manager Bob Melvin wants to see continue, but as the old saying goes, “a win’s a win.”
Prior to the game, the A’s held an on-field celebration to honor the 40th Anniversary of the 1974 World Series Championship team. Several members of the ’74 team were on hand to celebrate with the current members of the A’s team. Vida Blue, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Ray Fosse, Darold Knowles, John “Blue Moon” Odom, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace, Dick Green, Dave Hamilton, Larry Haney, Jim Holt, Ted Kubiak, Billy North, Herb Washington and Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson all partook in the festivities.
The “Swingin’ A’s” of the early ‘70’s won back-to-back-to-back World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
The finale of the weekend series against the Angels is tomorrow afternoon at 1:05PM as Sonny Gray (5-1, 2.31 ERA) will face off with Jared Weaver (6-2, 2.99 ERA).