By Morris Phillips
Sunday afternoon wasn’t like Saturday night for the Oakland A’s.
The A’s shed their recent struggles and produced a solid, all-around effort in beating the Indians, 7-3, to capture the weekend series and move closer to Texas in the AL West.
Tommy Milone returned from the minors and pitched effectively into the fifth inning and left with the game tied at 3. From that point, the Oakland offense and the bullpen handled the rest. Chris Young and Alberto Callaspo homered in the bottom of the fifth to break the tie and A’s relievers kept the Indians scoreless over the final 4 1/3 innings.
“That’s when we’re at our best, when we have equal parts and we can trust everybody up and down the lineup. That’s been our key offensively,” Jed Lowrie said of the fifth inning surge in which the A’s number six and eight hitters went yard.
The A’s left the Coliseum in a haze Saturday night having accumulated just three hits in a 7-1 loss that dropped them below .500 since the All Star break. The lack of offense stands as the biggest reason for the second half slump but on Sunday the A’s banged out 12 hits and saw good swinging bats up and down the lineup. Five A’s had multiple hits including Callaspo who was 3 for 4.
Manager Bob Melvin shook up his lineup for the series finale with Lowrie and Derek Norris at the top the lineup and Nate Freiman spelling Brandon Moss and hitting fifth. Unconventional? Absolutely, but it worked right down to the hits, the mid-game rally and in the absence of a big game from cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes who was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts.
Cespedes made his contribution defensively by throwing out Nick Swisher trying to stretch a single into a double in the seventh. Young made a spectacular catch in the eighth that kept Michael Brantley from getting extra bases.
Scott Kazmir started for Cleveland after an eight-day break and struggled. Kazmir allowed 10 hits and five runs, including both homers in the fifth, and took the loss. Kazmir has resurrected his career in 2013 but the Coliseum brings out the worst in the former Rays’ ace. Kazmir allowed two home runs equaling his home runs allowed over his previous nine starts. On July 10, 2010 Kazmir allowed 11 hits and 13 earned runs in a not-so-memorable start for the Angels at the Coliseum.
The A’s are a half-game out of first place and a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the wild card hunt with 39 games to play. Oakland continues their home stand Monday with the Mariners visiting.