Two first place teams entered the Coliseum today on losing stretches. The A's emphatically ended theirs and the Tigers are left searching for answers. On a beautiful Memorial Day, in front of a sellout crowd in Oakland, the A's blasted five home runs (including a grand slam) and Tommy Milone, Dan Otero, and Sean Doolittle combined for a shutout. A game like this will make you forget about close losses in a hurry. Maybe there was something to the theory that the A's were "turfed out" after their trip to Tampa and Toronto.
The raucous crowd clearly was looking forward to baseball on a holiday and some revenge against the Tigers. They were not disappointed.
Following an RISP fail in the first inning (1st and 3rd, no outs, no runs scored), Brandon Moss launched a homer to the 388 sign in left-center. Austin Jackson made a great leaping play to get his glove on the ball. He may have robbed a longball but his elbow slammed into the wall and the ball came loose, landing over the fence. 1-0 A's.
Newcomer Kyle Blanks got to make his home debut in front of the aforementioned crowd, and he immediately endeared himself by bashing a homer in the same location, but his was a no-doubter. After the game Blanks remarked that he loved the fact that there were so many quirky signs embracing not just the big stars but all the role players on the team and called the A's clubhouse a "melting pot of talent." A great observation.
The following inning Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes went back-to-back for two more solo shots. Donaldson's was a laser down the left field line on a hilarious meatball, and Cespedes' was a golf swing launched to the same location. I don't get why the A's bother getting baserunners that they can't knock in. Why don't they just use the solo HR strategy every game?
Tigers starter Drew Smyly was clearly laboring and leaving the ball up, but after losing the last two games to Texas by a combined score of 24-6, he was going to have to eat some innings no matter what. A's fans were excited about the possibilities.
In the very next inning, Alberto Callaspo led off with a single. Blanks knocked a hard grounder to the left side, and the A's had first and second, no outs. Craig Gentry walked to load the bases, Coco Crisp drove in one on a sacrifice fly, and Josh Donaldson hit a solid line drive to bring in Blanks. Donaldson went 3-5 with a home run.
In the eighth inning, the A's scored 4 runs on one hit. Blanks walked to complete a 2-3 day. Then Craig Gentry reached on catcher's interference. Gentry was involved in four out of the five errors by the Tigers on the day. That doesn't show up in the box score, but it's clear that his speed affects otherwise routine plays. In fact, on the only other error (back in the first inning), Coco took off to steal and Derek Norris hit a grounder to short, but in the confusion with the steal Andrew Romine muffed the ball.
Back to the eighth, Crisp reached on yet another error, and Derek Norris came up. Phil Coke served up a fastball right down the middle, and Norris just launched it for a grand slam. After losing to the Tigers in the playoffs the last three times, I appreciate every gratuitous run. Pour it on, boys.
Meanwhile, Tommy Milone really had the inside corner working today. He had three strikeouts where he painted the inside corner with the fastball (and four strikeouts on his fastball in all). He had six K's versus just two walks and went 6⅔ innings for the win. If he can consistently locate the fastball he can be very effective. He's also recently changed his delivery, going to a shorter stride and a more compact windup intended to generate more velocity and control. It seems to be working.
It was lovely to see a beautiful crowd on a gorgeous day watching the A's completely dominate the hated Tigers. I've already forgotten about the losing streak and am looking forward to watching the team pound the Tigers into submission over the next three days and inflate their league-best run differential just for kicks.
Tomorrow we will be treated to one of the best possible pitching matchups in the league: Gray vs. Scherzer. It's exciting stuff when these two teams meet.