OAKLAND, Calif. — As if Tommy Milone needed any more pressure on him after the Oakland Athletics lost his first five starts, the team sent struggling Dan Straily to Triple-A Sacramento before the game — sending a message that he could be next one bumped from the rotation.
Milone responded with one of the best outings of his young career.
The lefty tossed eight innings of two-hit ball for his first win of the season, and three teammates homered to power the A’s past the Washington Nationals 8-0 on Friday night.
”I think maybe a little bit of a vote of confidence that it wasn’t him (sent down),” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.
Brandon Moss homered and had three RBI, and Yoenis Cespedes and John Jaso each hit a solo shot to back Milone’s gem. Milone (1-3) struck out seven and walked three, leaving after 108 pitches.
Milone said he didn’t look at the club’s move to demote Straily instead of him as any kind of boost. Instead, he said he embraced the chance to pitch under pressure.
”I think just the energy level, I felt lifted — just grab the ball, get on the mound and throw it,” Milone said.
Fernando Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth in his first appearance in the majors since October 2012 after rehabbing from elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Moss and Cespedes homered on consecutive pitches in the fifth as the AL West-leading A’s foiled Doug Fister’s season debut. Fister (0-1) allowed nine hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked none.
”Physically, I felt like I was in the right place,” Fister said. ”I felt strong. It was lack of execution.”
The biggest trouble Milone faced came in the seventh, when he struck out Danny Espinosa with runners on first and second to end the inning. It was the first time Milone, who made his major league debut for the Nationals in 2011, completed at least seven innings this season.
Milone’s teammates credited his ability to pitch inside and low in the strike zone.
”He was awesome. That’s pretty much all I got,” Moss said. ”We’ve definitely seen that all before from him.”
Nationals manager Matt Williams was all smiles before the game with Fister back and his rotation finally at full strength. Washington acquired Fister from Detroit during the offseason for left-handers Robbie Ray and Ian Krol and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.
The Nationals entered the spring expecting Fister to help fill out the back end of the rotation. But he dealt with elbow inflammation in March and sat out the start of the season because of a strained back muscle.
The native of nearby Merced in California’s Central Valley made his Nationals debut in front of several family members at the Coliseum — though the free-swinging A’s hitters never allowed him to feel at home.
Fister put himself in a jam in the first by overthrowing first baseman Kevin Frandsen on a grounder by Josh Donaldson, who advanced to third on the play — one of three errors by the Nationals. Moss followed with an RBI single to give the A’s a 1-0 lead.
”When you give them extra outs, you’re asking for trouble,” Williams said.
Most of Oakland’s runs, though, came via the long ball: Jaso hit his second home run of the season in the third, Moss hit his sixth homer in the fifth and Cespedes followed with his seventh homer on the next pitch to put the A’s up 7-0.
It was the first time the A’s hit back-to-back home runs this season.
An MRI confirmed A’s CF Coco Crisp has a strained neck, Melvin said. Crisp, who was injured when he crashed into the wall to make a leaping catch in the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader, is day to day. … The A’s placed reliever Ryan Cook on the 15-day disabled with a strained right forearm. Cook and Melvin said they don’t believe the injury is serious. … Nationals OF Nate McLouth is expected to start Saturday after cutting his right hand while making a diving catch in foul territory Monday. … RHP Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91 ERA) goes for the A’s on Saturday against Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (2-1, 4.17 ERA).