Young, Donaldson pick up Milone to take series
Left-hander struggles in spot start, but offense bests Indians
OAKLAND -- Collectively, A's hitters have struggled all season to showcase any type of consistency over a lengthy stretch. Contributions have come from everyone -- some doing more heavy lifting than others -- but never at the same time.
Though this isn't an ideal approach, it's allowed them to refrain from relying on any one bat to carry the offense, to showcase a grab bag of heroes in their march to another playoff appearance.
"I think that's when we're at our best, when we have equal parts and we can trust everybody up and down the lineup," said Jed Lowrie. "That's been our key offensively."
On Sunday, Chris Young and Alberto Callaspo, batting sixth and eighth, respectively, emerged as the latest unlikely leading performers in a series-clinching 7-3 victory over the Indians that pulled the A's within a half game of the Rangers in the American League West.
Young entered the day batting .192, Callaspo .211 since joining the A's. The former broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth with a home run. The latter hit his own -- his first in green and gold -- one out later off lefty Scott Kazmir for some insurance.
Together, they combined for three RBIs and five of the A's 12 hits, seven more than the club compiled in Saturday's loss, and Young also made an impressive grab in center field in the eighth to prevent a run from scoring.
Josh Donaldson did his part, claiming responsibility for three runs, giving him four RBIs in the past two days. He had three total in his previous 26 contests. Lowrie, too, proved effective in a rare appearance at the leadoff spot, notching two hits and scoring as many runs.
"That's always nice when you get contributions all over," manager Bob Melvin said. "I think there are some guys who have the ability to carry a team. We saw it last year. We're not getting that much going this year, but I think if we get a couple of these guys revved up -- Yoenis [Cespedes] is recently and [Josh] Reddick is swinging the bat a little better recently -- we don't have to rely on the whole lineup."
Sunday's offensive performances overshadowed the return of lefty Tommy Milone, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings in his first start with the big league club since Aug. 2, needing 97 pitches to do so. He utilized 28 in the fourth inning alone, but showcased a better curveball and, outside of a 3-1 fastball that Ryan Raburn connected on for a solo shot in the second inning, was able to keep the ball down.
Callaspo's fifth-inning throwing error led to a pair of unearned runs, and by day's end, Milone had given up six hits and walked one with five strikeouts, before the bullpen took over and netted 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
"Those first few innings felt really good, was able to throw the ball where I wanted to, kept the ball down, pretty much what I was working on when I got sent down," said Milone, pitching in place of the injured Bartolo Colon. "I'm a little bit frustrated I didn't get deep in the game. They were fouling pitches off, pitch count got a little high. It is what it is, but I'm glad we were able to pull it off.
"I felt a little more energized. Getting sent down obviously isn't something I wanted to happen, but it's kind of eye-opening. It's something that might be a good thing."
Consider Milone to be auditioning for the same job he lost to Sonny Gray earlier in the month, since he currently figures to be the odd man out upon the return of Colon or lefty Brett Anderson, who may only be one rehab start away from rejoining the A's.
The club could potentially opt to try out Milone in the bullpen, or they could simply send him back down again.
"You know what, I really can't afford to think like that," Milone said. "I just have to go out there and take it one game at a time and hopefully they stick with me. I'm going to try to prepare for each start just like I would normally.
"I feel like this is the type of pitcher I am, minus not being able to go late in the game. The biggest thing as a starting pitcher is to keep your team in the game, and I feel like I was able to do that, and I felt good on top of that, so that was a plus."
Following Milone's departure, Dan Otero racked up 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the win, with Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour also combining for 2 2/3 clean innings of their own.
"They've been doing it all year," said Young. "That's the only way you're going to win games. Starting pitching, of course, is very important. But when you have a bullpen that can come in in close games and throw zeros on the board, it helps you out so much as an offense."