Game #38: Derek Norris completes sweep for A's

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball's a funny game. The same team that came one close game away from being swept in a four-game series at home by the Seattle Mariners earlier in the week simply destroyed the Nationals in the first and third games of this series, and flat-out stole the second en route to the sweep, and a four-game winning streak. (Derek Norris)2 + Nick Punto provided all of the offense today, and Scott Kazmir threw a seven-inning gem to lead the A's to the sweep over the Nationals with a 9-1 victory.

It won't go down as a perfect game in the books, but you probably can't tell the happy A's mothers and fans today on a sun-drenched Mother's Day at the Coliseum that it wasn't. The A's swept the Nationals with ease today to give Scott Kazmir his fifth victory on the season. The A's were not kind to their old friends Gio Gonzalez and Jerry Blevins; they scored 7 off Gio and 2 of Jerry. Derek Norris hit not one, but two 3-run home runs on 3-0 counts off Gio Gonzalez, doing the majority of the damage, but Nick Punto racked up 3 RBI of his own. Meanwhile, Kazmir breezed through the Nationals' lineup; allowing just four hits, striking out four, and walking no one, bringing his ERA down to 2.28 after his seven strong innings.

After Kazmir retired the side in order in the first, the A's took their first crack against Gio Gonzalez. I think it went rather well. Playing the part of the leadoff hitter today, Craig Gentry tried to bunt for a hit to open the game, but Gonzalez made a nice play, getting off the mound quickly, while the the first baseman got back to the base in time to take the throw. Great idea, great execution, and it took a perfect play by the Nationals to retire him. Jed Lowrie flew out, and if you are taking notes at home, there was a point in the first inning where the A's had the bases empty, no runs in, and two outs. This was also the only time Nationals' fans--or their starting pitcher--were happy.

It all changed with the next batter. Josh Donaldson walked on four pitches--a seemingly harmless two-out walk--and moved to second on an infield single by Yoenis Cespedes, who busted it down the line to beat the throw. It helped that the shortstop glanced at second base, delaying the throw, but it was still a great effort by Cespy to get on base. With two on, and two out, Derek Norris stepped into the box, and immediately took 3 balls. As fast as you could yell, "GREEN LIGHT!", Norris had picked his pitch, swung 3-0, and connected with the ball like it was batting practice and Gio Gonzalez was a pitching machine. The ball got out in a hurry, and just like that, it was 3-0 A's. Callaspo and Moss, not to be outdone, both singled to keep the inning going, and a single by Punto made it 4-0 A's at the end of the first, as the A's batted all the way around.

Believe it or not, the second inning was a near carbon copy of the first, or as I like to call it, "Didn't Gio learn from his first mistake?" This time, it was Gentry who started things off with a single, and after he stole second base, Lowrie flew out to move him to third. Josh Donaldson grounded out for the second out, leaving the runner at third, and it looked like Gio could get out of the inning. But his defense did not help him one bit. With two outs, Cespedes popped up on the infield, and neither third base nor the catcher caught the ball, and it harmlessly rolled foul. Cespedes then walked to keep the inning alive, bringing up Derek Norris again. With two on. And two outs. And he was thrown 3 more balls. As fast as you could yell "GREEN LIGHT!", Norris had picked his pitch, swung 3-0, and connected with the ball like it was batting practice and Gio Gonzalez was a pitching machine. The ball got out in a hurry, and just like that, it was 7-0 A's. Yes, that really happened. Yes, it was as awesome as you could ever imagine. Gio would last into the fifth inning, but there's no recovering from a 7-0 deficit with Kazmir on the mound today.

That was all the offense the A's and Kazmir would need for the entire day, and then some. Punto would drive two more in off Blevins in the seventh just so Norris wouldn't have all of the fun, Savery handled the eighth perfectly, and Jim Johnson proved he just can't win. He was token booed in a 9-0 game as he gave up the shutout, allowing the only run of the game for the Nationals, but when everything was said and done, no one was mad, and everyone was happy. Well, except for Gio Gonzalez, who sort of yelled at his team. I get that your defense let you down, but dude, you allowed two 3-run home runs on 3-0 pitches in consecutive innings. You kind of have to own that yourself.

So awesomeness ensues with the sweep; the A's have won 4 in a row, and they welcome in the slugging Chicago White Sox--leading the league in runs scored, and their rookie-of-the-year candidate. We'll be back here tomorrow night with all of the action!

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