ANAHEIM — Coco Crisp provided the long-awaited spark Saturday that the A’s have been searching for in the leadoff spot.
The veteran switch hitter reached base in each of his first four plate appearances and scored every time as the A’s beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-3 to take the first three of this four-game series. The common denominator in the victories has been an offense that’s suddenly clicking with precision since arriving in Southern California.
Saturday’s scoring display made for a memorable big league debut for left-hander Dillon Overton. He became the first A’s pitcher to start and win his debut since Bobby Cramer did so on September 13, 2010 at Kansas City. Four other A’s rookies have made their first major league starts this season — Daniel Mengden and Zach Neal got saddled with defeats, Sean Manaea and Andrew Triggs took no-decisions.
Overton (1-0) allowed solo homers to Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but never lost a handle on the situation over 5 2/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, struck out three and walked two.
Crisp finished 3-for-4 with four runs and two RBI, putting all of his offensive skills on display in one of his most well-rounded games of the past couple seasons. A’s manager Bob Melvin has alternated between Crisp and Billy Burns in the leadoff spot, but each has struggled with sub-.300 on-base percentages.
Crisp walked to lead off Saturday’s game and scored on Danny Valencia’s two-run homer off Jhoulys Chacin (2-4). He led off the third and the fifth with doubles and came around to score each time, then delivered a two-run single in the sixth and scored on Valencia’s single as the A’s three-run rally pushed their lead to 7-3.
The fourth-place A’s have won three in a row and four of the past five, and they’ve put 1 1/2 games between themselves and the last-place Angels.
Starting pitching report
Overton became the third A’s pitcher to give up three homers in his debut, and the first since Rick Rodriguez in 1986. But that factoid was secondary to the way the rookie handled himself despite that trio of long balls. Two of the homers came within his first three batters, as Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout went deep in back-to-back at-bats with one out in the first. But Overton steadied himself and showed some poise, stranding a runner at third base in both the third and the fourth innings.
Fun fact — Rodriguez happens to now be the A’s Triple-A pitching coach and has worked with Overton extensively this season.
The relief corps preserved the ‘W’ for Overton, though it got a little tense in the ninth.
Liam Hendriks threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Then Ryan Dull continued to build his All-Star case, stranding two runners in the eighth. It’s now 32 consecutive inherited runners stranded by Dull to begin his season. Sean Doolittle loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but stranded the runners to finally end it.
At the plate
The A’s have scored 19 runs and collected 35 hits over the first three games of this series. They established a pattern Saturday of Crisp getting on base and his teammates executing the fundamentals to get him, and others, across the plate. Valencia had a terrific night with three hits and three RBI, pushing his average to .333. Khris Davis delivered a two-out RBI single in the fifth that made it 4-2 at the time. And when there’s been a runner at third with less than two outs in this series, the A’s have done well finding a way to get him in.
In the field
The A’s played an errorless game.
The announced turnout was 40,643.
The A’s will go for the sweep Sunday behind Sonny Gray (3-6, 5.20). Hector Santiago (4-4, 4.99) goes for the Angels, and the A’s are 9-7 when the opponent starts a left-hander. First pitch is 12:35 p.m.