A’s Sweep Marlins in Miami, Roll to Majors’ Best Record

It seems nothing can stop the Oakland A’s these days, not even an upstart National League team with one of the most devastating hitters in baseball in their lineup. The A’s finished off their five-game east coast Interleague interlude this weekend by sweeping the surprising Miami Marlins in their home park. The A’s won four of the five games in this stretch against National League opponents (the first two came against the Mets in the Big Apple), and have now run their record to 51-30, good for the best record in major league baseball.

The A’s flew into Miami riding a relative hot streak, winning six of their last eight games. The Marlins, who had operated in 2013 as more of a scam than a baseball team, came into the series struggling after getting off to a shockingly solid start to the season (they were 34-30 on June 10). The Marlins entered the series with a 25-18 record at Marlins Park, though, and boast one of the game’s most imposing sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton, so the A’s were hardly going up against a group of pushovers.

The A’s touched off the series by pounding the Miami bullpen in a 9-5 come-from-behind win on Friday. Oakland raced out to a 4-0 lead after five innings, but starter Jesse Chavez and reliever Dan Otero surrendered the lead by giving up five runs to Miami in the sixth. The A’s tied the game in the eighth on an RBI triple by Josh Reddick, then blasted the normally reliable Marlins closer Steve Cishek for four runs in the ninth to take the lead and cement the victory. Josh Donaldson picked up three RBIs in the win, while Yoenis Cespedes and Stephen Vogt each had big RBI singles in the ninth inning rally.

The A’s won a 14-inning marathon on Saturday, squeezing out a 7-6 win and narrowly escaping a bases-loaded calamity to end the game. Like the previous contest, the A’s got off to a quick 4-0 lead, with Brandon Moss and Alberto Callaspo both touching Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi for RBI singles. Unfortunately, also like the previous game, the A’s squandered the lead, as a shaky Sonny Gray gave up three runs in the second and two more in the fourth to hand the Marlins a 5-4 lead.

The A’s tied the game on a bizarre play in the fifth. With Coco Crisp at third base, Moss struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt. Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia initially couldn’t find the ball, and Moss broke for first base. When Saltalamacchia recovered and threw the ball to first base to get Moss, Crisp broke from third and scored ahead of the return throw by first baseman Garrett Jones.

The teams remained tied until the eighth, when Jed Lowrie doubled and Callaspo knocked him in with a single to give the A’s the lead. The normally lights-out Sean Doolittle couldn’t hold it in the ninth, however, and the Marlins tied the game on a double by Giancarlo Stanton and an RBI single by Casey McGehee. McGehee advanced to third but was stranded when Doolittle got pinch hitter Ed Lucas to pop out to send the game into extra innings.

Behind strong relief work from Otero and Jim Johnson, the A’s traded zeroes with the Marlins into the fourteenth inning. The A’s finally eeked out a run in the top of the fourteenth against Jacob Turner, as Moss doubled with two outs and Donaldson lined a first pitch fastball for a single to knock him in. The A’s then escaped a bases loaded crisis in the bottom of the inning to come away with the win. Johnson loaded the bases with one out on two singles, a wild pitch, and a walk. Jeff Francis, who had been claimed off waivers by the A’s in June and who had never earned a save in his life, relieved Johnson and struck out Saltalamacchia and induced a first pitch fly out from Donovan Solano to end the game.

The A’s then finished off the sweep with a 4-3 victory on Sunday, with the big blow coming on a three-run home run by the newly called up Nate Freiman. Oakland trailed 1-0 going into the sixth inning, but three consecutive two-out singles by the A’s tied the game and set the stage for Freiman. The hulking, 6’8″ first baseman had stuck in the majors for most of 2013, and had had some big hits for the A’s, but he had spent all of this season toiling in AAA. He celebrated his return to the majors by blasting an Andrew Heaney fastball over the left field wall to give the A’s a 4-1 lead. The Marlins chipped away at Oakland starter Tom Milone and made it 4-3 in the seventh, but they could get no closer. Fernando Abad and Ryan Cook came in from the bullpen to shut the door on the Marlins and give the A’s the sweep.

The A’s have now won eleven of their last fourteen games and hold a comfortable five-and-a-half game lead in the American League West. They’ll get to test their mettle starting tonight against the Detroit Tigers in a three-game series in the Motor City. The Tigers currently sit atop the AL Central with a 44-34 record, and of course knocked the A’s out of the playoffs each of the past two seasons, giving the A’s that much more incentive to come away with a series win.