OAKLAND –- As the A’s put the finishing touches on this forgettable season, they got a boost from one of their more memorable surprises in 2015.
Billy Burns filled up the box score in a 5-4 victory over the Giants, displaying why he emerged as one of the American League’s top rookies this season. He hit a two-run homer that put the A’s ahead for good and added a double, bumping his average up to .299 with eight games left to get up to .300.
The victory in the opener of this Bay Bridge Series eliminated the Giants from NL Wild Card contention, though they cling to slim hopes in the NL West division race.
Sonny Gray (14-7) turned in six strong innings and won for just the second time since Aug. 7. He also matched his career high in victories, established last season.
Burns, whose emergence as a productive everyday leadoff man has been one of the A’s biggest bright spots, is moving into elite company on some of the A’s rookie leader lists. He moved past Jose Canseco and sits alone in sixth place with 146 hits (Canseco happened to be in the CSN TV booth for part of the game). His 45th multi-hit game tied him with Mark McGwire for third.
Starting pitching report
Gray stepped up with one of his strongest starts in recent weeks. It didn’t begin smoothly, as he walked Alejandro De Aza to start the game and then gave up Matt Duffy’s two-run homer a couple batters later. That was it off the right-hander, however, as he surrendered just five hits with two walks in six innings. His seven strikeouts were the most he's recorded since Aug. 2, when he also struck out seven against Cleveland.
Manager Bob Melvin went to his bullpen to start the seventh even though Gray was at just 86 pitches, a sign the A’s are making a conscious effort to ease the workload on their ace as the finish line draws near. They gave him an extra day of rest leading into this start after he entered Friday with a 7.97 ERA in four September outings.
Ryan Dull is not invincible, as it turns out. He gave up the first run of his career, in his ninth appearance, when Jarrett Parker hit a mammoth homer to center in the seventh -- a blast that cleared the luxury suites and reached the second-deck seats, and one of the longest balls hit at the Coliseum in recent memory. Sean Doolittle came on with two outs in the eighth. He gave up Marlon Byrd’s RBI single but finished a 38-pitch outing by getting the save.
[STIGLICH: Relief in sight for A's bullpen]
At the plate
Sticking to the approach that’s served him so well, Burns jumped on the first pitch from Mike Leake (10-10) in the third and drilled a two-run homer to right that put the A’s ahead, 3-2. That was the fifth home run for Burns, who homered just twice over his entire minor league career. Billy Butler added an opposite field shot, his 14th home run, in the sixth to make it 4-2. After the Giants closed it to a run, Josh Reddick made it 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out, RBI single off lefty Jeremy Affeldt.
In the field
Neither team committed an error.
The Bay Bridge series opener drew 36,067 –- the A’s fifth sellout of the season.
The “Big Three” reunion that everyone’s been waiting for arrives Saturday. Barry Zito (0-0, 18.00) makes his first start in the majors since Sept. 29, 2013, when he wore a Giants uniform.
Opposing him is Tim Hudson (8-8, 4.20), pitching in the ballpark where he became a two-time All-Star. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.