OAKLAND – While his counterpart struggled to locate the general vicinity of the strike zone, Jeff Samardzija had to enjoy the scene from the dugout Monday.
The A’s struck for six runs in the bottom of the first off Angels starter C.J. Wilson, although there wasn’t much striking required. Wilson issued four walks, two with the bases loaded, and was gone after two-thirds of an inning as the A’s coasted to an 8-4 victory over Los Angeles.
Samardzija, meanwhile, had a 6-1 lead by the time he returned to the mound for the second. And for a pitcher whose run support has been non-existent for much of 2014, Samardzija must have felt like he hit a gold mine.
The right-hander cruised through seven innings to continue his superb recent work, and the A’s rang up a crowd-pleasing victory against the recently crowned American League West champions. The win increased the A’s lead for the AL’s top wild card to a full game over Kansas City with six left to play. Their magic number to clinch one of two wild card spots was trimmed to four with Seattle’s loss.
This also marked Oakland’s first game against the Angels since they were swept in four games in Anaheim to close out August.
Making it all the more sweeter for the home fans, the win came at the expense of Wilson (13-10), who infamously ripped the Coliseum mound (and A’s fans) in an interview back in 2011. Monday marked the shortest start of his career that wasn’t related to bad weather.
Starting pitching report
Samardzija (5-5) gave up just an unearned run in the first inning. He held the Angels to five hits over seven innings, striking out three and walking none. Samardzija is riding a streak of 23 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
Did he ever deserve the offensive support.
Samardzija entered having received two runs or fewer in 19 of his 31 starts combined for the A’s and Chicago Cubs. He’s given up zero runs and not gotten a victory five times this season, making him one of just six major league starting pitchers since 1914 to have at least five no-decisions when allowing no runs.
He’s rounded into dominant form with one regular-season start remaining. That comes Saturday, in the A’s next-to-last regular season game, against the Texas Rangers.
Evan Scribner relieved Samardzija to start the eighth, and he surrendered Albert Pujols’ three-run homer to left that made it an 8-4 game.
Luke Gregerson handled the ninth, ending the game on a 6-4-3 double play.
At the plate
The A’s have now scored nine first-inning runs over their past two games, an encouraging development for a team that’s struggled to mount any kind of early offense.
They benefited greatly from the wildness of Wilson, who threw just 12 strikes among his 35 pitches. But the best thing about this night for Oakland was that it finally did some damage with the bases loaded.
Geovany Soto singled home two runs in the first, snapping a string of 18 conseuctive plate appearances with the bases loaded in which the A’s didn’t get a hit. In the seventh, Stephen Vogt singled home two more runs with the sacks full.
In the field
Third baseman Josh Donaldson thrilled the home fans with several slick plays with the glove. But Jonny Gomes got things started on the wrong foot fo the A’s when he misplayed Kole Calhoun’s deep fly for a double and error in the top fo the first. That led to a run.
Angels third baseman David Freese’s two-run throwing error in the first, which came with two outs in the first, helped account for the A’s six-run rally.
The announced turnout was 25,455.
Sonny Gray (13-9, 3.28) takes the mound in Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. game, with Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 5.24) going for the Angels.