OAKLAND -- In baseball, when things go wrong, they go verywrong. The As experienced that phenomenon on a season-high nine-game losingstreak from May 22 to June 1.But the opposite is also true. When things are going right, they go very right.The As are currently in the midst of a season-high five-game winning streak,and the latest one, a 6-4 victory over the San Diego Padres Saturday, includedsome shocking twists.With the As leading 3-2 in the seventh, manager Bob Melvin replaced starter TysonRoss with rookie left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle, who was originallydrafted by the organization to play first base. Doolittle worked himself in ajam with a leadoff double and a walk sandwiched by strikeouts. As Doolittle putit himself, he was one pitch away, but hung it. The lucky Padre on thereceiving end of the hanger was Will Venable, who doubled to right to plateboth baserunners and give San Diego a 4-3 lead.Thats when things started to go right for the As.
RECAP: Instant Replay -- A's 6, Padres 4
In line for his first Major League decision, Doolittle saw his L turn into aW thanks to an unlikely hero.Jonny Gomes, a native of Petaluma, was called upon to pinch-hit for Seth Smithin the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at third base and thego-ahead run at first. Melvin replaced Smith with Gomes because the Padres hadleft-hander Joe Thatcher on the mound, despite Gomes 0-for-34 streak as apinch-hitter heading into the at-bat. It was more the matchup with me for Thatcher, Melvin said.Smittys history wasnt great off him. Melvin went on to admit that he was unaware Gomes pinch-hitslump was as bad as 34 at-bats.Thatcher threw one ball to Gomes before Padres manager BudBlack decided to bring in right-hander Luke Gregerson.Considering Gomes .223 lifetime average againstright-handers and his struggles as a pinch-hitter, the As hopes seemed slim.But Gregerson bounced his first pitch in the dirt, allowing Cliff Pennington toscore the tying run from third easily, then fell behind 3-1 to Gomes. Thatswhen he threw a fastball that Gomes absolutely pulverized to straightaway leftfor a 6-4 As lead, putting Doolittle in line for his first big-league win.Gomes was asked if the pitching change was akin to a mental180-degree turn.A little more than 180 degrees, he said. From aleft-hander to a right-hander, then the runner on third scores, down one to atie. But I knew the fastball inside was coming.A mid at-bat pitching change is rare, but Black was simply playing the numbersgame. Did it offend Gomes?You dont take it personally, but as a competitor, you gotto dig in a little more and get it done.Gomes got it done, and Doolittle was the beneficiary, despite his ugly inningof work.Its a sign of a team thats pretty confident in whattheyre doing, Melvin said. We got held down offensively early on and had alead and for the first time Sean got hit a little bit. But its the hittersjob to pick him up. The pitchers have been picking this thing up for the betterpart of the season. The way weve been swinging the bats, I dont think anyonethought it was over once we got down.While Melvin witnessed the rally, Doolittle did not.I came back in the clubhouse to do my arm exercises andmissed it, Doolittle said of the game-winning home run. But I heard thecrowd.The As announced a crowd of 17,135 on striped sock giveaway day, then sent thefaithful home happy with another interleague win, their sixth in 11 games thisseason.A big reason for the As recent improvement is a confident offensive unit. TheAs came into Saturdays game with the second fewest runs scored in the AmericanLeague at 247, 36 of which came in Oaklands sweep of the Colorado Rockies andthe series opener against San Diego. It only took six runs to get the job done Saturday.A different guy is stepping up every day, Doolittle said.Its really fun to be a part of.The postgame clubhouse was a perfect portrait of a team having fun, with musicblaring and teammates joking and eating together after a comeback win.Were starting to get some character in here, Gomes said. Hittingis contagious.Gomes may have caught the hitting bug from Smith, the man he replaced in thelineup. Smith scored the first run of the game when he hit a soloshot off Padres starter Ross Ohlendorf in the fourth inning. As a designatedhitter this season, Smith is hitting .178 in 23 games. But when he gets thechance to play in the outfield, as Melvin allowed him to do Saturday, heshitting like an All-Star. Smith owns a .344 average as an outfielder thisseason and all seven of his home runs have come as a two-way player.Melvin said before the game that those numbers were a factor in his decision topencil Smith in as the left-fielder, but that Smiths tendency to block hisview in the dugout as a designated hitter also contributed.Im glad he kicked me out of the dugout, Smith said.Its not clear whether Smith will be in the lineup at all Sunday, and if so, asthe designated hitter or an outfielder. Regardless, hes ready to get back tothe O.co Coliseum as the As go for consecutive sweeps of N.L. West opponents. Winning makes everything better, Smith said. Well come back tomorrow readyto play.