A’s win first home series with late surge

Celebrating the 48th anniversary of Oakland Athletics baseball at the Oakland Coliseum, the hometown nine put together a late comeback to win the Sunday afternoon tilt, 3-2, and the series against the reigning champs.

Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt, who received two or fewer runs of support in nine of 13 2015 starts, was handed a no decision despite lasting 7 strong on a career -high 114 pitches. Kansas City Royals (8-4) hurler Kris Medlen matched him every step of the way, allowing two runs (one earned) on 6 1/3 innings.

While neither starter figured into the decision, it was A’s (6-7) reliever John Axford (2-0, 0.00 ERA) who was rewarded with win, for his perfect eighth, while Joakim Soria (1-1, 6.75 ERA) took the loss.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

After the game, winning manager Bob Melvin talked about the confidence gained from his team’s first home series win:

“We had been struggling here at home, and now we’re going on a 10-day trip against three really good teams, so you’d like to take some momentum with you. I think it was important.”

Kansas City fired the opening salvo when Alex Gordon singled in Eric Hosmer with one down in the second. An inning later, Mike Moustakas deposited a 2-1 sinker in the right field bleachers for a solo homer (4) and an early 2-0 lead.

Bassitt (0-0, 2.79 ERA) held the line from there, limiting the Kansas City offense to just three hits following the third — five in total.

Said Bassitt:

“We liked our odds going in. Obviously they’re the best team going right now in baseball, so taking (the series) from them after what the Angeles did to us at home really helps.”

With one down in the bottom of the second, Stephen Vogt crushed a 2-2 curveball into the second deck just foul down the right field line. Medlen (1-0, 2.38 ERA) reacted by throwing eight of his next nine pitches out of the zone, walking Vogt and Chris Coghlan.

Not only did the control problems set the table for designated hitter Billy Butler, but also spotted him a hitter-friendly 2-0 count.

The former Royal got a fastball right down International Boulevard, but a feeble swing produced matching results as a tapper to third base turned into an inning-ending twin killing. For Butler, who finished the 2015 season tied for second-most in the majors with 26 double-play grounders, it was No. 3 in 19 at-bats on the season.

On a Coghlan swinging strikeout with two outs in the fourth, the slider got past Royal catcher Salvador Perez and to the backstop, bringing Coco Crisp home from third. The error brought Butler back to the plate with two on.

After working the count full, the DH looked at a heater to for a strike out to end threat. Butler is now batting .150 without a single RBI.

Those struggles forced Melvin to lift Butler in another RBI situation in the seventh. In his place, pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie singled off tough Royal reliever Kelvin Herrera, driving in Coghlan to knot the score.

The usual second baseman, 32, said that getting the knock on his big day wadded a little something special:

“It’s really cool to do it on birthday — get a big hit like that — but I’m not going put too much stock into it. It’s nice that it happened, and I’ll take it any day, so maybe every day needs to be my birthday.”

Oakland captured the lead, riding lighting speed from Burns. After the center fielder legged out a liner into the right field corner for a triple, he flew home on a medium-deep sacrifice fly off the bat of Josh Reddick.

It was righty Ryan Madson, not Sean Doolittle who came on for the save (4).

Madson, a member of the Royals daunted bullpen a season ago, said that pitching in the ninth carries little difference from the ninth:

“I don’t treat it any differently. The ninth inning doesn’t mean anything to me, it hasn’t since 2011. I learned how to (pitch in the ninth) in ’11. It’s just keeping the same mentality. Keeping the emotions down and putting the pressure on the hitter.”

Following Monday’s day off, Madson and the A’s will take the field in New York, against the Yankees. Eric Surkamp (0-1, 4.00 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Yank righty Michael Pineda (1-1, 6.55 ERA).


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.