OAKLAND – The A’s experienced quite the 24-hour turnaround Monday, and it went beyond hitting homers by the handful and ending a losing streak.
A 10-0 waxing of the Detroit Tigers before a sellout Memorial Day crowd seemed to completely reverse the vibe that surrounded this team just a day earlier in Toronto, when the A’s lost for the fourth time in a row and looked like a team that had completely lost its way offensively.
True, you can’t put too much value on any one individual victory in May. But the A’s appeared to do wonders for themselves psychologically with a blowout victory in the opener of this four-game series.
“We needed a game like that,” manager Bob Melvin said. … “It was a good day all-around for us.”
And important from the standpoint that the Tigers and A’s, despite coming into this series with the best records in the American League, were both hurting mentally. Oakland had lost four in a row while scoring just 13 runs in its past six games. Detroit had dropped six of its past seven and seen its vaunted starting rotation get treated like a piñata.
One team or the other was going to take the upper hand, and the A’s did it by knocking a season-high five home runs, including four in a span of eight batters bridging the second and third innings. Josh Donaldson, who went 3 for 4 and hit one of those homers, couldn’t put his finger on the sudden upturn his team took offensively.
Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly (2-3) entered the day having allowed just four homers all season. He gave up that many inside of three innings Monday.
“There’s not one thing I can sit here and say was different (from the past four games), because I don’t know that there was a lot,” Donaldson said. “You’re gonna run into those days where you’re not swinging the bat well. The Detroit Tigers have one of the best lineups in baseball, and we were able to hold them to no runs today.”
The team-wide turnaround was much-needed for Oakland (31-20), which pushed its division lead back up to 2 ½ games over the Los Angeles Angels.
On the individual front, nobody could have walked away from Monday’s blowout feeling better than first baseman Kyle Blanks.
After nine games on the road following his trade from San Diego, Blanks took the field for the first time in front his new home fans and blasted a homer to left-center in his first at-bat. He later singled, walked and scored three runs total. Though he might have worn an A’s uniform since May 16, Blanks acknowledged that Monday’s game finally made him feel like a part of the mix. He picked up his first homer, RBI and run scored as an Athletic with one second-inning swing on a 2-1 changeup from Smyly.
“Home runs aside, it’s nice to feel like a part of the team and just contribute,” Blanks said.
There was a sign posted next to the lineup in the A’s clubhouse Monday morning that read, in part: “Home runs end rallies, not start them.”
It was a reminder not to swing for the fences. How funny that the A’s went as homer-happy Monday as they have all season, including the first career grand slam by Derek Norris.
But they also had a two-run rally in which they got a sacrifice fly from Coco Crisp and a two-out RBI single from Donaldson, the kind of execution that was absent during their recent offensive dry spell.
That scoring provided plenty of support for starter Tommy Milone (3-3), who limited Detroit to four hits over 6 2/3 innings. Over his last four starts, the lefty has surrendered just three earned runs in 26 1/3 innings.
He spotted his fastball with pinpoint accuracy on the inside corner to righties and complemented it with a great changeup.
And while Melvin tried to downplay the importance of beating Detroit, which knocked the A’s from each of the past two postseasons, Milone said Monday’s series opener had a little extra intensity.
“The first couple innings were pretty high energy,” Milone said. “It took me a little while to get calmed down.”
He settled in, as did his entire team. Who knows what the rest of this four-game series brings? But by the final out Monday, the A’s found themselves in a much happier place than just one day earlier.