A's belt five homers to tame Tigers in shutout
Norris contributes grand slam to help back Milone's strong outing
OAKLAND -- Before the A's took the field against the Tigers on Monday afternoon at O.co Coliseum, a motivational note was posted next to the day's lineup in the clubhouse.
In short, it said that home runs kill rallies, not start them, and that a slow demise for your opponent is better than a quick one. Well, the A's didn't exactly take those words of wisdom to heart.
The A's turned the Memorial Day matinee against the Tigers into something of a home run derby, teeing off for five home runs in a 10-0 victory.
"Homers can be rally killers," said catcher Derek Norris after his eighth-inning grand slam capped off Oakland's outburst. "But when you end up hitting four or five of them on the day, you can probably make a different statement."
Detroit starter Drew Smyly entered the contest with a sub-3.00 ERA, but he couldn't do much to slow down the A's in his seventh start of the year. Meanwhile, Oakland lefty Tommy Milone kept up his strong run of performances in the month of May.
Brandon Moss started off the A's home run parade in the bottom of the second, when he lifted one to dead center and the ball bounced off the glove of a leaping Austin Jackson and over the fence. Later in the inning, Kyle Blanks blasted one to left field in his first career at-bat at O.co Coliseum to make it 2-0.
After being acquired from San Diego via trade recently and going 2-for-11 to start his A's career, Blanks went 2-for-3 with three runs scored on Monday.
"When you get into a game like that and you're part of it, you're scoring runs, you're hitting homers," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "it really gets you feeling, like, 'Hey, I'm part of this team now.'"
Smyly (2-3, 3.86 ERA) saw a similar fate in the third, when Josh Donaldson snuck one inside the left-field foul pole for another solo shot.
"I didn't think it was going to be a home run," Donaldson said of his 12th homer of the season.
Yoenis Cespedes made it back-to-back after Donaldson's dinger when he muscled one out to left field, extending Oakland's lead to 4-0. The A's kept pouring it on in the fourth by loading the bases with no outs. Coco Crisp would go on to hit a sacrifice fly and Donaldson delivered an RBI single to center, as Smyly was knocked around all afternoon.
Smyly gave up a season-high six earned runs on a season-high eight hits while walking two and striking out three across five innings of work.
"It wasn't a great outing for him," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "At least he got deep enough in the game where the bullpen wasn't completely torn apart."
Milone (3-3, 3.50 ERA) was able to complete 6 2/3 innings by sticking with his usual script -- spotting his pitches effectively, pitching to contact and letting his defense work behind him. Melvin and Milone pointed to the southpaw's ability to mix it up with his changeup and fastball as a big reason behind the successful outing.
"Whenever you can go out there and give up zero runs, it's always a good day," Milone said. "But I've got to give [credit] to the defense and, obviously, the offense today because they backed me up."
After allowing four hits and two walks while striking out six, Milone is now 3-0 with a 1.03 ERA in four starts since the A's demoted Dan Straily, a move that took place when Milone was struggling and also on the chopping block. Since then, Milone said he's benefited from a shortened stride on the mound, which has allowed him to command his fastball better and stay low in the zone.
Norris, who has caught seven of Milone's nine starts this year and each of the last four, said the batterymates have formed great chemistry as the season has progressed.
"Sometimes when you put together back-to-back starts or four starts in a row when he's throwing the ball well," Norris said, "you get that trust and you get that bond going. He works a little quicker, he works more determined, he works more accurately. That takes a load off because he no longer has to think. He just has to see it and throw it to where he wants to throw it."
Following Milone, Dan Otero and Sean Doolittle combined to complete the shutout, the team's seventh of the year. The series continues on Tuesday night with the highly anticipated pitching matchup of Oakland ace Sonny Gray and Detroit righty Max Scherzer.