All it took Friday night was a few minutes for the Oakland A’s to generate three runs from their paper-cut attack and wreck the party atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium that surrounded Eric Hosmer’s arrival with the Royals.
The A’s produced a 3-2 victory by stinging an otherwise-dominant Sean O’Sullivan for four straight singles to start the fifth inning. Mix in a couple of fielder’s-choice grounders, and the result was three runs.
“A couple feet to the left or the right,” O’Sullivan said, “we turn two and it’s a different game. This is a tough one to swallow.”
Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez, 4-2, limited the Royals to two runs in seven innings before relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes closed out the victory in front of a crowd of 30,690. Fuentes got his eighth save in 10 chances.
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The attendance included same-day sales of 9,835, many of whom presumably came to view Hosmer, the organization’s top prospect. His promotion from Class AAA Omaha was announced following Thursday’s 9-1 victory over Baltimore.
Hosmer drew walks in his first two plate appearances before striking out twice.
“I was excited more than anything,” he said. “I got here around noon today. I felt like I was here all day, and the game seemed like it went real fast. Glad I could get that debut out of the way and move on from this. I'm never going to forget this day.”
O’Sullivan, 1-2, needed just 89 pitches to work a career-high eight innings. He pitched to contact in walking one and striking out none. He allowed hits in just two innings and just five in all – all singles.
But four singles came in succession in the A’s three-run fifth.
The Royals’ last gasp came when Wilson Betemit lined a two-out single in the ninth, which brought speedster Jarrod Dyson into the game as a pinch-runner. Dyson stole second on Fuentes’ first pitch to Matt Treanor.
Dyson died at second when Treanor grounded out to third.
All that after everything started well.
Hosmer punctuated his first defensive inning in the big leagues by executing a first-short-first double play on Hideki Matsui’s one-out grounder with runners at first and third.
The Royals then grabbed a 1-0 lead on Alex Gordon’s two-out homer in their first. It was a 392-foot drive over the left-center wall.
“Against Gio,” Gordon said, “you’re just trying to protect the plate. On that swing, I thought, `Whoa, did I just do that?’”
Treanor’s leadoff walk in the third inning led to another run when Mike Aviles plugged the right-center gap with a one-out RBI triple. But the Royals stranded Aviles at third when Melky Cabrera grounded weakly to third and Gordon flied to left.
“That’s minimizing damage,” Gonzalez said. “You keep your composureslow the tempo down, don’t try to rush or overdo it. Don’t be too perfect, keep attacking the zone, and let these guys put the ball in play.
“That’s what I was trying to do. I got a ground ball out that helped out a lot.”
O’Sullivan carried the 2-0 lead into the fifth before running into trouble when the A’s opened the inning with successive singles by Kurt Suzuki, Ryan Sweeney, Andy LaRoche and Mark Ellis.
The first three singles produced a run and put runners at first and second. Ellis then sent a liner to deep left that a retreating Gordon reached but couldn’t hold. The ball fell for a single that loaded the bases.
“They just put the ball in play hard,” Treanor said, “and the ball found an outfield hole.”
Oakland tied the game on Kevin Kouzmanoff’s grounder to third, which resulted in only a force at second because Ellis’ slide prevented Aviles from making a throw to first.
“There’s nothing like a second baseman (like Ellis) who understands that play,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “He understands the importance of it, he knows how to do it clean and do it correctly. It’s one of those things you don’t see in the box score.”
Ellis’ takeout slide enabled the A’s to score what proved to be the winning run when Coco Crisp avoided a double play on a grounder to second.
The Royals put the tying run in scoring position in the fifth and sixth, but both times with two outs, and Gonzalez pitched out of the threat. He also worked around Alcides Escobar’s two-out single in the seventh, although doing so put him at 110 pitches.