Lowrie on Moss' home run: 'He clobbered that ball'
Jed Lowrie has 15 home runs to go along with 44 doubles this season for the A's. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss each went deep Monday for the A's, who lead the majors in home runs since the All-Star Break. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
OAKLAND – Home runs helped blaze the A’s trail to the division title. Their plan on Monday was not to mess with a good thing, apparently.
Jed Lowrie hit a three-run shot and Brandon Moss contributed a two-run bomb to key a 10-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game series.
There was no sign of a letdown from the A’s after they won the American League West on Sunday and partied it up afterward. They continue to impress with their ability to jump out to an early lead, then build on it with a barrage of hits.
They finished with 13 hits Monday and scored at least eight runs for the fifth straight game. Granted, the last five games have come against the Angels and Minnesota Twins, who both rank in the bottom third of the AL in ERA. But what has to be encouraging for A’s manager Bob Melvin is how many players consistently get in on the act. Seven of the nine starting position players notched RBI.
The A’s won their fifth straight but accomplished a bigger task by gaining ground for postseason seeding. They now trail Boston (which was idle) by just one game for the top record in the American League. If they wind up with the No. 1 seed, the A’s would play the wild card winner in their Divisional Series as opposed to Detroit, which seems the most likely matchup should they get the No. 2 seed. With the Tigers losing Monday, the A’s magic number to clinch home field advantage for the ALDS is two.
Starting pitching report
Tommy Milone is one of the few pitchers in the majors who probably doesn’t mind seeing Mike Trout step to the plate. He struck out the Angels’ MVP candidate three times swinging to highlight this spot start by the left-hander. Milone (12-9) went 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, though only three were earned. He struck out eight and walked one, not bad for a guy who figures to be a long shot for the postseason roster.
He’s had Trout’s number over the past two seasons. The outfielder is 3 for 16 with six strikeouts in his career against the soft-throwing lefty. The big damage off Milone came in the third. After he struck out Trout with the bases loaded, Howie Kendrick smoked a three-run double off the wall in right-center to cut Oakland’s lead to 5-4. Kendrick, who homered in the second, is one player Milone hasn’t solved. The second baseman is 9 for 20 off of him.
Grant Balfour took the mound for the first time since blowing a save Wednesday against the Angels. Given a five-run lead, he made things interesting by walking two in the ninth. But he also rang up three strikeouts and got his 39th save.
At the plate
By now, the A’s love of the long ball is no secret. They lead the majors in homers since the All-Star break, and they’ve tied an Oakland record by homering at least twice in six consecutive games.
Appropriately, Moss’ team-high 28th homer in the fifth sailed over the “Going, Going, Gone” jetBlue sign in right field. Lowrie connected for his 15th, one off his career high.
Seth Smith drew the start in left field, just his fifth start in the month of September. He got the offense going early with an RBI double to left-center that scored Josh Reddick from first base. Chris Young then pinch-hit for Smith in the fifth against lefty reliever Buddy Boshers, an early-game substitution that showed how serious Melvin is about trying to nail down home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Angels right-hander Garrett Richards (7-7) pitched well against the A’s in Oakland last week, but he gave up seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings Monday.
In the field
Back-to-back gems were turned in by a former Athletic. Angels left fielder Collin Cowgill made a diving catch to rob Stephen Vogt in the fourth, then raced to the gap and extended to catch Eric Sogard’s drive one batter later.
Eric Sogard, drawing a start at shortstop for the A’s with Lowrie at DH, threw wildly to first on Cowgill’s grounder, and the third-inning error led to three unearned runs off Milone when Kendrick cleared the bases with his two-out double.
There was an interesting sight during batting practice, as catcher Derek Norris took throws at first base. Bob Melvin said before the game that it’s a possibility the A’s keep all three of their catchers – Norris, Stephen Vogt and Kurt Suzuki – on the ALDS roster. That would make more sense if Norris is available at another position, and he could be valuable as a right-handed hitting first baseman if Nate Freiman’s injury makes him unavailable in the first round.
It was a beautiful night for baseball, and 41,147 fans showed up for the opener of this three-game series.
Since June 26, A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78) is tied for third in the American League with nine victories. He takes the hill Tuesday and matches up against Jason Vargas (8-7, 4.28) in a 7:05 p.m. contest.