Oakland, CA – Jon Lester made his first home debut with his new team and he did not disappoint. He tipped his cap after receiving a standing ovation after his day ended on the mound. The A’s evened the series with a 8-3 victory over the Royals when they opened up their offense in the fifth.
Jason Vargas threw a perfect game until the fifth. He didn’t allow a hit nor a batter to get on base. Vargas allowed seven hits and seven runs in 4.1 innings pitched. Oakland dominated by scoring all of their runs in one inning leaving Kansas City flustered as they could not stop the A’s at-bats.
“We were able to come up with the big inning,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We were a little stagnant the last time we tried to score. We have the ability to do it, once we get a couple guys on, we can start passing the baton.”
Derek Norris leadoff the fifth with a double followed by a pop-up single lost in the sun allowing Jonny Gomes to reach first base safely. Alberto Callaspo tied the game 1-1 with a single to right field and Josh Reddick followed with a RBI single extending their lead 2-1. Nick Punto followed with a RBI single and left the game with a strained right hamstring after sliding to third base.
“This starting rotation is definitely no secret with their resume,” Gomes said. “Like I said I don’t think it’ll be very often that we score zero like the other night. But with that being said if we can get that lead early and what those guys can do with an early lead, that can help us out a lot.”
Oakland kept the hits coming, a bunt single by Sam Fuld loaded the bases with one out. Jed Lowrie’s single rolled past third baseman Mike Moustakas for the A’s sixth single in the inning. Gomes two-run single cleared the bases with a unearned run scored on a deflection making it a 8-1 game and Vargas was finally chased off the mound.
Lester was calm, intense and strong in his debut. He tossed 6 2/3 frames allowing nine hits, three runs, one walk and three strikeouts. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last eight starts, going 4-0 with a 1.07 ERA. Oakland backed their ace providing enough run support to make him feel welcomed after exiting in the seventh.
“After warming up it felt a little more normal,” said Lester. “Just getting back into pitching more than anything. Just worrying about that and not living situations or moving or anything like that. When I come to the field this is where I can get away from that, it’s my safe haven.”
“He did good,” Derek Norris said. “He battled, some things didn’t go his way, some calls didn’t go his way. Ultimately, he was pretty darn good to get through that.”
The Royals were able to score their first run in the third when Alcides Escobar leadoff the third with a single, Nori Aoki walked and Omar Infante’s sacrifice bunt advanced both runners. Salvador Perez’s sacrifice fly scored in Escobar for the 1-0 lead.
Alex Gordon leadoff the fourth with a double, two errors at third base put two more runners on but good defense by the A’s kept Kansas City from scoring in their next run. Moustakas lined into a double play to center fielder Sam Fuld who then threw to home plate for the out to end the inning.
“I thought it would be close because he had such momentum coming in,” Lester said. “And it ended up not being as deep as I though it would be. So for him to make that throw was unbelievable especially at that point in the game, already allowing one run and to prevent the second run was huge.”