SEATTLE – Brandon Moss went the pro-active route in trying to end his home run drought, and it wasn’t getting him anywhere.
The A’s slugger was going to the plate looking to jack the ball over the fence. Instead he only found more frustration.
The dry spell finally ended when Moss connected off Seattle’s Chris Young in the seventh inning Sunday. His solo shot snapped a 39-game personal homerless streak in Oakland’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners, helping the A’s win back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 22-23.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Fuld, Moss, power A's past Mariners]
Moss, who made his first All-Star team this season largely on the strength of 21 first-half homers, had not gone deep since July 24. Not that anyone needed to tell him that.
“I’m not gonna lie, it gets in your head a little bit,” Moss said. “You start leaning between, ‘Do I continue to just try to be a good hitter and trust that it’ll come?’ Or do I amp up a little bit and look for a pitch to drive? The longer you go, the more you start leaning that way.”
If he felt a burdened lifted off his shoulders, surely his team as a whole felt the same. The A’s arrived in Seattle looking like a beaten-down squad, and the Mariners – nipping at their heels in the wild-card race – had the pitching lined up to potentially deal a knockout blow to the A’s psyche.
Instead, the A’s counter-punched.
They stood their ground against Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez and pulled out an extra-inning victory Saturday, then backed that up with one of their most well-rounded games in quite a while Sunday. At 83-66, Oakland leads the Kansas City Royals by 1 ½ games for the A.L.’s top wild card spot with 13 left to play. Seattle is one game back of the Royals for the second spot.
“We come in here a little down, and we lose a tough first game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “ And each and every game that you lose like that can be difficult on your psyche. You have to look at it and say, ‘We’re in every one of these games and we’re not playing great baseball. So all it takes is a little adjustment and we can be back winning games.”
It helped that the A’s scored quick against Young, when Sam Fuld homered in the first. Oakland hadn’t posted a first-inning run since putting up five against Seattle on Sept. 1, a game also started by Young.
The early lead was a boost for lefty Jon Lester, who struggled with his command but found a way to make the big pitch over six shutout innings.
“These games sometimes mean more than the games where you go out there and can just walk through the lineup,” Lester said.
Moss added some important breathing room in the seventh with a towering shot over the right field wall. His thoughts at that moment?
“Thank the Lord,” he said. “Goodness gracious.”
Aside from his homerless streak, Moss had collected just two RBI over his previous 23 games, during which he was hitting .141 with 28 strikeouts.
“The longer you go in a drought like that, the more it kind of gets in your head,” Melvin said. “He’s been taking some good swings recently … It’s huge. He’s a guy we rely on, not only this year, but in years past. We need to get him going. It’s a good start for him.”
A giant bear costume, purchased from Urban Outfitters this weekend by members of the A’s bullpen, is becoming a sort of unofficial team mascot. The bear was propped up at a clubhouse table before Sunday’s game with a jar of honey next to it.
Somehow, the costume ended up draped over Moss’ chair in front of his locker after the game. He was tight-lipped, directing all inquiries to Jonny Gomes.
“Maybe he beared down,” Gomes said. “That’s all I got.”