OAKLAND – It took just two innings -- and two swings of the bat -- for A’s catcher Derek Norris to notch the biggest game of his major league career. Already riding a torrid hot streak entering the day, Norris drilled a pair of three-run home runs Sunday off former A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez, powering Oakland to a 9-1 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals.
Norris’ six-RBI day will be relived on the evening highlight shows, and fans who didn’t witness his performance live will swear they’re seeing repeat footage on his home runs. Norris swung away on a 3-0 count in the first and mashed a three-run shot into the left-field seats. Again he came up with two runners aboard in the second.
Again, Gonzalez fell behind 3-0.
And again, Norris sent a laser sailing over the left field wall to put the A’s ahead 7-0.
It made for a miserable return to the Coliseum for Gonzalez, one of the game’s up-and-coming lefties when the A’s traded him to Washington in December 2011. Norris was one of four players the A’s received in return from the Nationals, so there were all kinds of interwoven storylines to this day.
Gonzalez (3-3) often had trouble masking his emotions while he wore an Oakland uniform, and his frustration appeared to boil over as things unraveled Sunday. Cameras caught him arguing with a teammate in the dugout after the bottom of the second, with a coach needing to restrain him. He left after 4 1/3 innings, surrendering a season-high seven runs on nine hits and three walks.
But the story from the A’s perspective was Norris, who is now hitting .488 (21 for 43) over his past 16 games and .385 overall.
Starting pitching report
Staked to an early lead, A’s left-hander Scott Kazmir (5-1) gave the Nationals no hope of staging a comeback. He allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. Kazmir improved to 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in five starts during day games this season.
Joe Savery and Jim Johnson handled the final two innings to help the A’s extend their winning streak to four games.
At the plate
Though catcher John Jaso homered Friday and Saturday and was the hero of Saturday’s come-from-behind walkoff victory, A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Sunday’s game he didn’t think twice about starting Norris over Jaso against the lefty Gonzalez.
How could he?
Norris has thrived in his role playing against left-handed starters, though he’s also shown great improvement against right-handed starters as well. Norris’ first homer put the A’s ahead 3-0, and Nick Punto’s run-scoring single made it 4-0 as the A’s made Gonzalez throw 33 pitches in the first.
Then Norris delivered his carbon-copy three-run blast in the second to make it 7-0. One batter before he came up, with two outs, Yoenis Cespedes skied a foul pop-up that inexplicably fell between Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon and catcher Jose Lobaton. Gonzalez was visibly upset over that play, shouting to himself as he walked back to the mound.
He wound up walking Cespedes and then served up Norris’ second long ball.
In the field
The A’s didn’t commit an error, with shortstop Jed Lowrie turning in a couple nifty plays in support of Kazmir.
A holiday crowd of 28,205 showed up on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
The Chicago White Sox arrive Monday for a three-game series. The matchups: Monday – Jesse Chavez (2-1, 2.47) vs. John Danks (3-2, 4.93), 7:05 p.m. Tuesday – Drew Pomeranz (2-1, 1.45) vs. Scott Carroll (1-2, 3.63), 7:05 p.m. Wednesday – Tommy Milone (1-3, 4.54) vs. Andre Rienzo (3-0, 4.56), 12:35 p.m.