Milone perseveres in Oakland

Ervin Santana’s first big-league win was a masterful one. Arriving in the Majors with the Angels in 2005, the right-hander fired a five-hit shutout against the White Sox in just his second major league start. But Santana wouldn’t notch his next complete game for quite some time – in 2008 to be precise – over three years later against the Royals.

Santana took the mound for those same Royals in Oakland Saturday night in search of his 100th career win. And judging by the top eight hitters in the A’s lineup, it seemed Santana was poised for another masterpiece.

But Eric Sogard would have none of that. Hitting in the No. 9 spot, Sogard was the only A’s hitter to solve Santana early on. The Oakland second baseman tallied a 2-for-3 night, including a leadoff double in the sixth that sparked a two-run rally. Backing a “Houdini” effort by starter Tommy Milone, it was all the runs the A’s would need, as they edged Kansas City 2-1. 

Milone looked to be in dire straits early on. The lefty couldn’t put anybody away the first time through the batting order, and his inability to do so ran his pitch count to 63 after just two innings. But Milone buckled down by allowing just one run through six innings to earn the win, upping his record to 4-5.

“That was Houdini,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He [threw so many pitches early on] and goes six innings…. I’ve been impressed with a lot of his outings before – I don’t know any more than that.”

It was actually the Royals’ left-handed hitters that gave the southpaw trouble the first time through the order. Kansas City’s leading hitter Alex Gordon grinded out an 11-pitch at bat in the first inning, before pounding a double into the left-center gap. Gordon would score two pitches later on a bloop single by Billy Butler to plate the Royals’ only run of the night.

In the second, Milone responded to a lead-off single by Salvador Perez by surrendering back-to-back nine-pitch walks, first to the left-handed Mike Moustakas, then to righty Jeff Francouer, to load the bases. But that’s when the magic act began. Milone went on to induce a foul pop-out off the bat of Elliot Johnson, then struck out both Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar to strand the bases loaded. Kansas City would go on to leave seven runners on base throughout.

“Across the board it was just a terrific outing, for what could have been a come-ou-of-the-game-in-the-second-or-third-inning,” Melvin said.

Oakland’s offense pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat though, as the A’s took the lead in the bottom of the sixth. The rally came just in time to ensure the win for Milone, who made way for the bullpen to start the next inning.

And as should come as no surprise, the A’s bullpen kept the Royals bats on lockdown. Oakland relievers worked three shutout innings, facing just one over the minimum. Ryan Cook entered in the sixth, striking out two while lighting up the radar gun at 95 mph. After earning the win in Friday’s game, Sean Doolittle induced three straight groundouts in the eighth.

Then closer Grant Balfour emerged to record his eighth save of the year in eight opportunities. Mr. Perfect’s streak of consecutive save conversions is now at 26, dating back to May 5 of last season.

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