OAKLAND – The chance for offensive redemption came early Friday night for the A’s, and did they ever respond.
Brandon Moss blasted a grand slam and Oakland scored five runs in the first on its way to a 9-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at the Coliseum.
Josh Donaldson homered twice and finished with four RBI as the A’s made a convincing statement in the opener of this three-game series between the top two teams in the American League West.
A day earlier against Detroit, the A’s tripped over themselves with men on base, going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and coming up empty in two bases-loaded situations. Then quickly loaded the bases with no outs in the first against right-hander Garrett Richards.
They didn’t stay loaded for long, as Moss crushed a 96 mile-per-hour fastball from Richards over the right field wall for his first career grand slam. Richards would leave after just two-thirds of an inning.
Moss’ big night ended prematurely, however, when he left the game in the third inning with what was announced as tightness in his right calf. His availability for Saturday night’s game wasn’t immediately known. His four-RBI night gave him a team-leading 46 and kept him solidly in the top five in the league.
The A’s pushed their division lead back to 2 ½ games over the Angels.
Starting pitching report
Drew Pomeranz (5-2) was the beneficiary of the early offense. He went 5 1/3 innings, snapping his string of 20 consecutive starts of five innings or less. Considering that was the longest such streak by a major leaguer since at least 1914 – the furthest the records go back – it was quite the hump for the lefty to get over.
He seemed to have more life on his fastball than he did in his previous start in Toronto, and he spotted very well in the early innings. He got the Angels looking for four of his five strikeouts, with Mike Trout going down twice on strikes. But Trout also took Pomeranz deep over the center field wall for the Angels’ first run in the fourth, a tape-measure shot that hit off the stairs leading up to where the center field cameras sit. Later that inning, Pomeranz served Howie Kendrick’s two-run blast that cut Oakland’s lead to 7-3.
The Angels scored twice in the sixth when C.J. Cron hit a two-run double off Dan Otero, runs that were charged to Pomeranz. So the lefty went 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on just four hits. He struck out five and walked three.
Otero gave up Cron’s double on his first batter, then pitched into the seventh before giving way to Luke Gregerson. Gregerson was sharp over his 1 1/3 innings, striking out two. Sean Doolittle closed it out in the ninth.
At the plate
Richards (4-2) hadn’t pitched fewer than five innings in any start this season. He faced 10 batters and the A’s had built a 5-0 lead by the time Angels manager Mike Scioscia came with the hook after just two-thirds of an inning.
The A’s have had much success this year getting into an opponent’s bullpen early. That they were able to do it in the opener of this three-game series of division contenders would seem to bode well for the rest of the weekend.
They struck for five runs on five hits against Richards. Aside from Moss’ slam, another run scored in the first on Coco Crisp’s bases-loaded walk.
Donaldson went to the opposite field for his first homer, a comic scene in which Angels right fielder Collin Cowgill made a leaping attempt at even as it sailed about 10 feet over his head to clear the elevated wall. That attempt caused Donaldson to momentarily stop at second, before continuing his trot home. Umpires reviewed whether the ball actually cleared the wall, and the call was quickly confirmed. Donaldson’s second was a no-doubter to center in the fifth, giving him a team-leading 15 for the season.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
A crowd of 23,384 showed up for this series opener.
It’s a battle of lefties Saturday night as Tommy Milone (3-3, 3.50) and Tyler Skaggs (4-2, 3.97) take the hill in a 7:05 p.m. contest.