In many baseball circles this was supposed to be the year the Kansas City Royals finally put it all together. Their treasure chest of high draft picks over the years was going to finally develop the Royals into an AL Central juggernaut. So far, not so good in 2013 as the Royals came into tonight’s game at 40-42 and in third place. The Oakland Athletics travelled to the midwest with no intentions of helping the Royals cause of challenging the Detroit Tigers for the Central crown.
Tommy Milone is notorious for his struggles on the road over his short career with the Athletics over the last year and a half, so nobody would be judged for expecting a rough outing for the soft tossing lefty in Kansas City. His road struggles coupled with his recent inconsistency was what made his performance tonight such a pleasant surprise. Milone was extremely efficient throughout the game, pitching to contact and allowing just 3 hits through the first 8 innings of the contest. He only threw 83 pitches through those 8 frames.
The Athletics were able to get to Royals starter Wade Davis in the third inning on a soft RBI single off the bat of Eric Sogard, and added two more runs in the 5th on a Josh Reddick triple, and a Coco Crisp sac fly that followed. That was all the damage they would be able to inflict on Davis. They would add three more runs in the top of the 9th inning thanks to an error by Lorenzo Cain on a Josh Reddick fly ball,and a 2-run single by Coco Crisp. It would turn out that those runs would be the difference in the game.
With his low pitch count, Milone went out for the 9th inning in an effort to finish what he started, but a complete game shutout would not be in the cards for him on this night. After retiring the first batter of the inning, doubles by David Lough, and Alcides Escobar would get the Royals on the board, and singles from Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler would chase Milone from the game. In came Grant Balfour into a 6-2 ballgame, but with 2 runners on it would be a save situation. He allowed a single by Salvador Perez to cut the A’s lead to 6-3, but would work out of trouble from that point on to register his 22nd save of the season in as many chances.
The added significance of this save for Balfour was the fact that it was his 40th consecutive save, which matches the franchise record held by the great Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley. With Eckersley, and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers representing the Athletics already in Cooperstown, the A’s know a little bit about great closers, Balfour has joined them as one of the better men to finish games for the green and gold. Don’t worry though, I’m not getting ahead of myself and designing a plaque for Balfour, but it’s still a tremendous accomplishment.
The victory for the A’s keeps them 1/2 game ahead of the Texas Rangers who doubled up the Houston Astros 10-5, it also sets a new high watermark for the A’s on the season at 15 games over the .500 mark at 51-36. The A’s will face an old nemesis once again tomorrow as Ervin Santana (5-5, 2.84 ERA) takes the hill, he’ll be opposed by Jarrod Parker (6-6, 4.11 ERA) who as you may remember had to leave his start last Saturday with hamstring tightness. It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how he responds and if he can continue the roll he’s been on recently, chances are the A’s will need him to be on his game against Santana.