OAKLAND – The A’s aren’t too proud to pass on a little charity.
Houston starting pitcher Erik Bedard couldn’t find the strike zone Monday, and the A’s rode a six-run first-inning rally to an eventual 11-2 victory over the Astros at the Oakland Coliseum.
Bedard walked four and allowed his first run before the A’s even put a ball in play during a 41-minute first inning. Brandon Moss’ two-run single and Nate Freiman’s three-run homer highlighted the rally as the A’s righted their ship after losing two straight to Detroit over the weekend.
It wasn’t the prettiest display of baseball but it didn’t have to be, as the A’s won the opener of a three-game series against a team they swept just a week ago at Minute Maid Park. Tommy Milone won his third straight start, pitching into the seventh inning and ensuring the Astros wouldn’t scratch their way back into the game.
At 10-4, the A’s are off to their best 14-game start since the 1992 squad also began the season 10-4.
Starting pitching report
Tommy Milone earned points for mental toughness in this one. He sat for a long time during the A’s six-run first, and it would have been understandable had he lost his focus or stiffened up in the cold weather. But he delivered a 1-2-3 top of the second and lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits. He struck out six but, most importantly, didn’t issue a single walk. Nothing will tick off a manager more than seeing his pitcher start to issue free passes with a big lead. Milone beared down, threw strikes and moved to 3-0 on the season.
The Astros still clung to hope in the seventh as they trailed 6-2 and had two runners aboard when Milone left the game. But Sean Doolittle entered in relief and got Justin Maxwell swinging to end the rally. Pat Neshek and Grant Balfour handled the final 1 2/3 innings to bring it home.
At the plate
The A’s stayed patient and let Bedard do his thing, and that was enough for victory on this night. The lefty walked the first three batters in the bottom of the first and uncorked a wild pitch to score Oakland’s first run. The A’s parlayed his lack of command into a six-run inning. Bedard lasted just one-third of an inning, and credit the A’s for delivering the knockout blow when he was on the ropes. Moss had a two-run single and Freiman followed with his first career homer, a three-run shot over the left field wall that ended Bedard’s night.
Oakland tacked on three more runs in the seventh on Jed Lowrie’s two-run single and Moss’ RBI double. Then Chris Young drove home two more in the eighth and the A’s cracked double digits.
In the field
The A’s played an error-free game and made all the plays they were supposed to. That was easier to do with Milone keeping his defenders on their toes and making Houston put the ball in play.
Monday … night game … Houston Astros in town. An announced attendance of 10,689 was no surprise considering all the factors. Those that stayed until the end on a windy and cold night deserved some sort of badge to commemorate it.
A.J. Griffin takes the mound Tuesday looking to continue his stellar start to the season. He’s 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Griffin is also 9-1 in his major-league career. That ties him with Tim Hudson for most wins in Oakland history by a pitcher over the first 17 games of his career. Brad Peacock, traded from Oakland to Houston in February as part of the Jed Lowrie deal, will start for the Astros.