OAKLAND – On a frenetic day of transactions involving the A’s pitching staff, all seemed to fall into place Friday night once Tommy Milone took the mound.
Milone was a model of efficiency in a 8-0 victory over the Washington Nationals, tossing eight innings of two-hit ball and leading the A’s to their second consecutive shutout.
It was by far Milone’s bes effort of 2014, and quite a turnaround from his last outing, when he walked four and got tagged for three homers at Fenway Park last Saturday against Boston. The lefty was at his best in Oakland’s first interleague contest, changing speeds effectively and avoiding the fat part of the barrel all night.
He finally earned his first victory of 2014 in his sixth start, and it came on a day the A’s shipped fellow starter Dan Straily to the minors, placed reliever Ryan Cook on the disabled list and called up relievers Fernando Rodriguez and Joe Savery.
Milone (1-3) had plenty of support. Brandon Moss drove in three runs and he and Yoenis Cespedes hit back-to-back homers during a three-run fifth off Nationals right-hander Doug Fister (0-1). The A’s collected 12 hits total.
Starting pitching report
That Milone pitched so well on a day Straily was sent down seemed significant.
There’s been considerable discussion that the back of Oakland’s rotation is a weak link for the two-time defending divison champions. To see Milone dominate as he did Friday night was a boost for the A’s, and if he can team with Drew Pomeranz as an effective tandem in the 4 and 5 slots in the rotation, it obviously bodes well for the A’s as a whole.
Milone struck out seven and walked three.
Rodriguez, called up Friday afternoon, made his long-awaited A’s debut after missing all fo last season with Tommy John surgery. He delivered an uneventful and scoreless ninth.
At the plate
Fister would like a do-over for his Washignton Nationals debut. Sidelined since spring training with a lat strain, the right-hander struggled mightily in his first start of 2014.
Some of it had to do with poor defense behind him (he also contributed an error), but the A’s recently dormant offense also made his life miserable by capitalizing on those mistakes.
Moss and Cespedes went deep on back-to-back pitches in the fifth, when the A’s padded their lead from 4-0 to 7-0. It was a welcome rush of runs considering they had scored just 18 runs over their last seven games.
Moss had a run-scoring single in the first and then unloaded on a Fister curve for a two-run shot to center in the fifth. His three RBI give him a team-leading 28 for the season. Five of his six homers have come with runners on base.
Fister got a coaching visit after Moss’ homer, and on his next pitch, Cespedes took him deep to the opposite field. It was Cespedes’ third homer in the past four games, which seems to bode well for the A’s beefing up their run production.
In the field
The Nats seemed to be on a crusade to take the National League lead in errors.
They made three after entering the night just four behind the Dodgers’ N.L.-leading 33. Fister got the blooper party started when he air-mailed a throw down the right-field line on Josh Donaldson’s infield single in the first.
That set up Moss’ RBI single. Donaldson reached again when third baseman Anthony Rendon bounced a throw past Kevin Frandsen in the fifth, setting the table for Moss’ and Cespedes’ consecutive blasts.
Former Athletic Scott Hairston got in on the act in left field, letting Eric Sogard’s routine fly ball clank off his glove for Washignton’s third error.
Conversely, Donaldson turned in a couple of gems to back Milone. He made a charging barehand grab and throw to first to retire Danny Espinosa on his fifth-inning bunt. Then he made a great stop on Anthony Rendon’s hard smash in the eighth, and Moss made a nice scoop of his short-hop throw.
A crowd of 20, 159 turned out at the Coliseum for the A's Nerd Power glasses giveaway.
Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91) will make his first career interleague start in Saturday’s 6:05 p.m. contest, opposing Tanner Roark (2-1, 4.17).