OAKLAND – Every win is precious right now for the A’s, no matter who the opponent or which route is taken to victory.
They scratched out a 3-1 win over the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night, striking for one brief scoring rally in the early going and then letting lefty Jon Lester do his thing.
Lester built on a dominant body of work that stretches back to early June, firing seven innings of one-run ball and winning his third start in a row.
The victory moved the A’s back into the top wild card spot, a half-game ahead of Kansas City.
The A’s looked like they might really bust out before a sellout crowd on their final fireworks night of the season. But after putting three on the board in the second, they went into offensive hibernation.
This time it didn’t come back to bite them.
Sean Doolittle shut the door in the ninth for his 22nd save.
Starting pitching report
Lester struck out seven and walked two in a 114-pitch effort. The only damage off him came when Ryan Howard belted a first-pitch homer to dead center in the fourth. It never really looks flashy with Lester. He just seems consistently in control of the situation.
Lester is now 6-3 with a 2.20 ERA in 10 starts since coming over from Boston, but he’s on a rather dominant run dating back much earlier than that. In his last 18 starts going back to June 12, he’s 10-3 with a 1.68 ERA.
He put two runners aboard in the first but got Ryan Howard to wave at strike three and Marlong Byrd to swing through a fastball to end the threat. He allowed just five base runners over the next six innings.
Luke Gregerson put two runners aboard in the eighth but worked out of it behind some nice defensive work. Then Sean Doolittle, coming off Wednesday’s blown save against Texas, turned in a 1-2-3 ninth.
At the plate
The A’s didn’t exactly knock the cover off the ball in their three-run rally in the second. But they didn’t have to.
This is a team that came in hitting .211 and averaging 2.85 runs over its previous 20 games. They’ll take runs any way they can get them. In the second, the A’s had runners on first and second with two outs. Derek Norris lined an opposite-single to right to score Adam Dunn from second. Then Eric Sogard shot a single down the third base line that brought home Stephen Vogt and Coco Crisp poked a grounder back up the middle that pinballed off middle infielders Freddy Galvis and Chase Utley for a third consecutive run-scoring hit.
But after that nice display of hitting with runners in scoring position, the A’s reverted to their old ways. They went scoreless over the next six innings, including another golden opportunity wasted in the seventh.
Jed Lowrie blasted a leadoff triple to right-center. But then Norris went down swinging for the first out. Then the A’s tried a new wrinkle, going for the safety squeeze with Eric Sogard at the plate. Right idea, wrong execution. Lowrie hesitated at third as Sogard’s bunt went to the left side, and third baseman Maikel Franco flipped home to get Lowrie in plenty of time. Crisp followed with a single and Sam Fuld walked to load the bases. But Josh Donaldson popped up the first pitch he saw from reliever Justin De Fratus, and the A’s lead remained 3-1.
In the field
Josh Donaldson turned in a couple fo big plays in the late innings. With a runner on third and one out in the eighth, he fielded Carlos Ruiz’s chopper and cut down Freddy Galvis at home to keep it a 3-1 game. Then in the ninth, he made a sliding stop of Marlon Byrd’s grounder down the line and fired across the diamond for the out.
First baseman Stephen Vogt, in his first start since coming back from an ankle injury,started a 3-6-3 double play in slick fashion that helped Lester navigate through the second inning.
A sellout crowd of 35,067 showed up for Star Wars Fireworks Night. Festivities included a Star Wars quiz. I aced it … or is that something I should keep to myself?
With Jason Hammel leaving the team to be with his wife, who’s expecting their second child, Drew Pomeranz (5-4, 2.53) makes a spot start Saturday for Oakland. Journeyman Jerome Williams (3-2, 2.84) goes for the Phillies. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.