OAKLAND – The A’s broke out of their offensive doldrums Monday, and subtlety went out the window as they did so.
They smacked five home runs off Detroit Tigers pitching, as if trying to rid themselves of the frustrations of a four-game losing streak as emphatically as possible. The end result was a 10-0 throttling of the team that’s knocked them from the postseason each of the past two seasons.
It made for a pleasing afternoon for a holiday sellout crowd of 35,067. The A’s had mustered just 13 runs over their past six games, and the 10 runs they put up matched their total from their past five contests combined.
It was a great day for first baseman Kyle Blanks, who marked his first game at the Coliseum with his first homer for Oakland and reached base two other times. It was also a memorable day for Derek Norris, who connected for his first career grand slam in the eighth to make this one a laugher.
But the feel-good vibes spread everywhere. Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss also went deep. Tommy Milone threw 6 2/3 shutout innings. It was a much-needed effort all around for a team that was struggling as it returned from a nine-game road trip.
Starting pitching report
Milone (3-3) was at the top of his game, spotting his fastball expertly and striking out six over 6 2/3 innings. Three of his strikeouts came looking as he continuously hit the inside corner to catch the Tigers off guard.
He did well to deliver shut down inning after shutdown inning as his teammates gradually increased their lead.
Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle did solid work in capping off the shutout.
At the plate
Tigers starter Drew Smyly (2-3) entered the day having given up just four home runs all season. He served up that many in less than three innings Monday.
Given recent events, a four-homer day from the A’s seemed about as likely as Milone hitting 100 mph on the radar gun. Oakland hadn’t scored more than three runs in any of its past six games. But they jumped all over Smyly, who was clearly off his game but stayed in long enough to throw 107 pitches over five innings. Detroit’s bullpen has been overworked of late and needed somebody to eat up some innings.
Brandon Moss got things going with a solo homer to center that a leaping Austin Jackson couldn’t pull down. That also marked Moss’ 18th extra-base hit in May, tying Jason Giambi’s Oakland record for the month. Two batters later, Kyle Blanks dug in for his first at-bat at the Coliseum and smashed a solo shot over the elevated wall in left-center, his first homer and RBI as an Athletic.
The A’s didn’t let up in the third. Josh Donaldson drilled a liner over the left field wall to make it 3-0, and Yoenis Cespedes made it back-to-back homers when he reached out and knocked a 3-2 slider over the wall in left.
That gave the A’s four homers in a span of eight batters. Odd as it sounds, their two-run rally in the fourth might have been even more important for their psyche. The A’s haven’t been great in their situational at-bats of late, and they stranded runners on the corners with no outs in the first. In the fourth, with the bases loaded and no outs, they managed to broke through and pad their lead. Coco Crisp lined out to left for a sacrifice fly that scored Alberto Callaspo, and Donaldson lined a two-out single to center to make it 6-0.
That was part of Donaldson’s three-hit afternoon. He and Moss are tied for the team home run lead with 12.
In the field
Jackson did his best to pull back Moss’ homer in the second. But Detroit’s center fielder had the ball bounce out of his glove and go over the center field wall. Things would only snowball in a bad way for the visitors from there.
A sellout crowd of 35,067 showed up on a sunny Memorial Day. One fan won a George Michael CD for identifying “Careless Whisper” over the P.A. system. I’m thinking 35,066 other fans might have gotten that one right too.
Pitching matchups don’t get much better than Sonny Gray (5-1, 1.99) vs. Max Scherzer (6-1, 2.59). That’s what’s on tap Tuesday … 7:05 p.m. first pitch.