(OAKLAND) -- With three straight wins under their belts for the first time since sweeping the Texas Rangers on the road a few weeks ago, the 2014 Oakland Athletics look to sweep the visiting Washington Nationals today at the O.co Coliseum on Mother's Day.
The A's had started this home stand with three ugly losses to the Seattle Mariners, including a come-from-ahead loss in the first game of a doubleheader on May 7. That game was particularly painful, since Oakland finally managed to get the edge on Felix Hernandez, knocking him out in the seventh inning while taking a 4-3 lead.
But the beleaguered bullpen coughed up yet another late-inning lead, and the A's lost that game in extra innings. However, they did recover to win the second game of the doubleheader, behind Drew Pomeranz' first start of the season for Oakland: that 2-0 win was nice for the A's, in terms of salvaging their American League West division lead.
Since then, Oakland has beaten the Nationals twice, getting Tommy Milone his first win of the season on Friday night with an 8-0 win and then backing it up on Saturday night with a come-from-behind win against Washington: the A's had just one hit through the first eight innings, but they scored two runs in the ninth and another in the tenth to beat the Nats, 4-3.
Thus, it's been a few crazy days for the A's, and that's par for the course during the MLB regular season, isn't it? You blow a game, you shut out the opponent two straight, and then you steal a game. The roller coaster ride never really ends, until October.
In blowing their seventh save of the season on Wednesday, though, the Oakland bullpen continues to experience painful moments. Not only is that number the second-worst mark in the AL, but the A's relievers also have lost seven games in 2014, and that's the fifth-worst total in the league.
(Sadly, Oakland also saw reliever Ryan Cook head back to the disabled list after he strained his forearm Wednesday.)
The A's will have to get better in the bullpen if they want to succeed this season, but if the starters keep pitching like Pomeranz and Milone did this week, maybe that won't be as much of a need: between the second game Wednesday and Friday night, Oakland starters pitched 13 innings and gave up just four hits.
Overall, in the 18 innings of the two shutout wins, the A's surrendered just six hits and three walks. Dan Otero threw three scoreless innings out of the bullpen to back up Pomeranz, while Jim Johnson earned a perfect save for the first time in 2014.
Milone's effort against his old team -- he was acquired in exchange for Gio Gonzalez, who starts against the A's today at O.co -- was nothing short of stunning, considering his train wreck of a season hitherto (0-3, 5.86 ERA in his first five starts). The crafty lefty gave up just two hits in eight innings Friday night and was ably backed by 12 hits from the Oakland offense and three RBI from Brandon Moss.
Saturday's win was almost a complete role reversal for Oakland, however: trailing 3-1 in the ninth, the A's had managed just two hits (including John Jaso's solo home run in the third inning). But Oakland strung together three hits to start the ninth, and that tied the game: Jaso singled, Jed Lowrie doubled to score Jaso, and then Josh Donaldson singled to score Lowrie.
In the tenth, Alberto Callaspo singled to start the inning, and after two outs, Nick Punto scored the winning run when Jason doubled off the right-field wall. So five hits in the final two innings won the game for the A's in front of a sellout crowd waiting to see Journey-theme fireworks after the game.
Today, as noted, former Oakland All-Star Gonzalez (3-2, 2.91) will start for the Nationals (19-17) against his former team, facing fellow lefty Scott Kazmir (4-1, 2.64). It's Breast Cancer Awareness Day at the O.co Coliseum today, as well, as the A's have raised over $1.3M since 1999 to help further advance breast cancer education and research.
Game time is 1:05 p.m. as Oakland (22-15) tries for the sweep and their fourth straight victory.