OAKLAND -- The A's scored 13 runs for starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija on Thursday. The Cubs scored 13 runs over Samardzija's last six starts with Chicago.
"It crossed my mind," manager Bob Melvin said. "'When was the last time he had a lead like this?' But it's part of his tenacity, he goes out there and takes nothing for granted."
Samardzija declined to comment on his days in Chicago, which now seem a distant past, but did acknowledge how excited he is to be in Oakland and get to the yard every day. Surely, the runs have something to do with it.
"It's more of a mental state, when you're getting run support," said Samardzija after scattering five hits over eight innings of one-run ball in the A's 13-1 drubbing of Houston on Thursday. "In tight games every pitch means a little more. Having a lead, you can take a deep breath and pound the zone."
[RECAP: A's 13, Astros 1]
The A's starter did just that, getting the team efficiently to the ninth inning on a night the bullpen needed rest.
Samardzija became the first A's pitcher to go seven-plus innings in each of his first four starts since Jesse Flores did so way back in 1943, and he arrived Thursday full well expecting to do so. He watched Melvin's press conference after Wednesday's win from his hotel, when the skipper described the status of his over-taxed bullpen with one word -- "Samardzija."
"Alright, I'd better get to bed and get ready," Samardzija recalled telling himself. "It was pretty cool to hear that. I love when people put some pressure on you and expect a lot out of you."
"Knew what was expected of him, and did exactly that," Melvin said.
Getting an early lead was key for Samardzija, who relies primarily on the movement and velocity of his fastball. His 101st pitch, which ended the eighth inning, was clocked at 96 miles per hour.
"Just attacking the zone," Samardzija said. "That's what a little run support will do for you."
The support was only "little" prior to the five-run sixth inning, when Brandon Moss hit his 23rd home run and third grand slam this season.
"That made the dugout nice and loose," Samardzija said. "Everyone was having a good time. Everyone loves it when Mossy goes deep."
Josh Reddick, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in his second consecutive start after returning from the DL, was quick to give Moss a hard time.
"We know how the ball travels here in the day. At night, that's probably a routine pop up," he said with a smile.
Moss agreed: "I was shocked. I really was. I really didn't think that one was going to go out."
It took Moss eight seasons to connect on his first grand slam, which he did against the Angels on May 30.
"It's only been on my mind a few times," Moss said. "But once I finally hit one a few months ago, I stopped thinking about it."
Now, they are coming in bunches. He's got one each in May, June and July -- three in 75 days.
"Twelve RBI in three at-bats? That's not fair," Melvin teased. "Some guys have to work to get 12 in a month and this guy's done it in three at-bats."
"He's a completely different hitter now than in his (early) days," Reddick said. "He's a strong man and he knows how to hit."
Moss, who is also on a career high-tying eight-game hitting streak, talked about his development and cited the ability to find comfort at the plate when a pitcher is bearing down with runners in scoring position. The strength can't hurt, though, and Moss kept reporters waiting after the game while he hit the weight room.
"It feels good," Moss said. "I got a good pitch to hit, and I didn't miss that one."
As baseball's best team departs for a six-game series through Texas to visit the lowly Rangers (40-62) and Astros (42-60), they're looking for more of those good feelings -- and a little more run support.