Milone stays perfect at Coliseum
A stretch of 450 miles separated southpaws Tommy Milone and Gio Gonzalez on Tuesday night.
Having swapped homes during the offseason following a five-player deal that sent All-Star Gonzalez to Washington and Milone and Co. to Oakland, the former took to the mound in San Diego for the Nationals, the latter getting the nod for the A’s against the White Sox.
Gonzalez extended his scoreless-inning streak to 20 in Washington’s win. And Milone? He’s adjusting just fine to his new abode in Oakland, where he lengthened his own scoreless-inning streak at the Coliseum to 16 frames following an eight-inning shutout performance in a 2-0 win over the White Sox.
Consider the lefty a good fit in the white shoes.
“We know we’re developing these guys, and we know they’re going to get better and better over the course of their careers,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We have a lot of faith in them. Otherwise we wouldn’t have made those deals.”
It was hard to envision a better version of Milone than the one that showed up to face the White Sox, who didn’t get a hit off the lefty until the fifth inning and managed just two others the rest of the way. Those were their only base runners of the night until closer Grant Balfour boarded one in the ninth, as Milone didn’t issue a single walk and struck out a career high-tying five.
An underrated fastball, as catcher Anthony Recker characterized it, nicely set up a changeup that was at its best.
“You gotta be aware of that changeup,” Melvin said.
“His changeup was awesome tonight,” Recker said. “Anytime he needed it, it was there. He just does exactly what you want him to do. As a catcher, he’s a dream. You’re never worried about altering your game plan based on missing spots or not having this pitch or that pitch. He has everything every day. It’s almost like he’s a perfectionist. I wouldn’t call him that, because I’ve never really seem him get mad, but I think that’s because he never misses his spots.”
So for one night, at least, the A’s were able to forget about their Major League-leading four shutout losses. Instead, they were talking about the Major League-best four shutouts recorded by their own pitching staff.
The club’s starters are owners of a 2.93 ERA, which ranks second-best in the American League only to Texas. The White Sox, meanwhile, aren’t too far behind in the third spot, with a 3.09 mark.
Chicago starter Gavin Floyd matched Milone through seven innings, with only two hits allowed during that time. But it was the eighth frame that proved decisive, as Floyd handed away a free pass to Daric Barton to lead off the inning, before striking out Luke Hughes and handing the ball over to lefty Matt Thornton, who entered the day with a blank ERA.
But Kurt Suzuki, coming in to pinch hit for Recker, soon changed that, lining an RBI double down the left-field line to turn a scoreless game into a 1-0 A’s lead, all the while snapping Oakland’s scoreless streak at 16 innings.
Melvin wasn’t aware of that number, but he was well aware of the relief felt after it was no longer of significance.
“I don’t know how many innings it was we didn’t score, but it felt like 100,” he said. “Each inning you get further along, the more guys have a tendency to tighten up, try to do too much and press some. When you’re scoring runs, you don’t think about things like that. You just go up and take your at-bat and do your thing.”
“I was just trying to think of getting a ball I could hit hard,” Suzuki said. “We talked earlier today about not trying to do too much and string some things together and see what happens then.”
The result was a reward for Milone, whose efforts lowered his ERA to 2.00.
“(Floyd) pitched great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Their guy pitched a little better.”
“Against that lineup, pretty spectacular,” Melvin said.
Recker called Milone a bulldog and noted, “A guy pitches like that, you’re dying to give him a win.”
Milone is now 3-1. Gonzalez is 2-0 yet gradually becoming a distant memory.
“Probably the best my arm’s felt so far this year,” Milone said. “Just being able to make pitches and starting hitters off with a strike and keeping the offspeed pitches low. The changeup felt good, and getting that cutter inside was important too.”
Said Recker: “He made it a lot of fun to catch, that’s for sure.”