Homers by Sweeney, Ellis get A's a win
Mark Ellis has always possessed an ineffable knack for timely hits during his years with the Oakland Athletics. Now that he's back from a two-month injury absence, maybe he can show his light-hitting teammates how to get it.
Ellis hit a two-run homer in his second game back in the A's lineup, and Ryan Sweeney homered and drove in two runs in Oakland's 7-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
Kurt Suzuki had a run-scoring double for the last-place A's, who snapped a five-game losing streak with a rare 11-hit effort from a club that's last in the AL in batting average, hits, total bases and homers. Ellis' homer in the fifth inning was his first since last Aug. 18, but he expects his teammates to raise their games along with him soon.
"Certain guys in this lineup, it's our job to get those timely hits," said Ellis, who had been out since late April with a strained left calf. "No matter where we are in (the standings), when we're in a position to win a game, we've got to get those hits, and good things will happen."
In addition to the veteran infielder's homer, Oakland got three hits from Sweeney for the second straight game, while Matt Holliday had two hits and scored two runs as the A's blasted promising Detroit rookie Rick Porcello (8-5).
"He's a sinkerballer, but we were seeing pitches up in the zone and getting around on them," said Sweeney, who's batting .419 since returning from the disabled list June 18. "We've actually been swinging the bats well the last couple of games, but we've been hitting them right at each other. It's just good to get any win at this point."
Brett Anderson (4-7) earned his first victory in four starts, allowing four hits and four walks but mostly escaping trouble in 5 1-3 innings. The left-hander clearly benefited from eight days off since his last start, throwing with exceptional velocity that even Sweeney could spot from center field.
Gerald Laird had an RBI double for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who have lost three of four after a seven-game winning streak. Detroit had just six hits and struck out a season-high 14 times, the club's most in a game since Aug. 13, 2007, also against Oakland.
"It's puzzling, to be honest," manager Jim Leyland said. "We have a good right-handed hitting club, or at least I think we do, and we need to do a better job."
Porcello made one of the poorest starts of his rookie season, yielding nine hits and five runs while failing to get out of the fifth inning. The 20-year-old right-hander had won seven of his previous 10 starts, but matched his second-shortest appearance of the season against Oakland's unimpressive lineup.
"There's a lot for me to learn," Porcello said. "I'll take what I can out of it and move on. The biggest thing is to keep working at it and be better next time."
The A's thrived despite another rough outing for Jason Giambi, who scored a run but went 0 for 3 to drop his average to .200. The former MVP is 12 for 76 in June, including a current 2-for-23 slump.
Holliday started Oakland's first rally with a one-out single in the fourth. After Giambi walked, Suzuki knocked a double just inside the left-field line to score Holliday, and Giambi hustled home on Sweeney's infield single.
An inning later, Ellis' line drive hit the first row of seats above the "330" sign in the left-field corner, scoring Landon Powell. Adam Kennedy then put Oakland up 5-0 by scoring on Holliday's grounder.
After Porcello was chased, left-hander Fu-Te Ni struck out Giambi in his major league debut. Ni didn't know who Giambi was, and he raised his eyebrows in surprise when told of Giambi's achievements.
Ni, the first Taiwanese pitcher in Tigers history, had three strikeouts in 1 2-3 innings, but allowed Sweeney's homer leading off the sixth.
A's reliever Michael Wuertz allowed Laird's RBI double, but also struck out four of the six batters he faced. ... About two hours before game time, the A's optioned INF Jack Hannahan to Triple-A Sacramento and recalled OF Travis Buck, who was batting .350 in Sacramento during a rehab assignment for a strained oblique muscle. ... A's manager Bob Geren dropped RF Jack Cust to seventh in the batting order and promoted SS Orlando Cabrera to the No. 2 slot. Cust went 0 for 3, grounding into a double play and striking out. ... Cabrera extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games.