Lester beats Royals in A's debut
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jon Lester, so long a presence for the Boston Red Sox, did his usual thing on Saturday, but in a green-and-gold A's uniform.
After 242 games with the Red Sox, Lester made his Oakland debut and came away with the victory as the A's smashed through their recent scoring drought to beat the Kansas City Royals 8-3. The left-hander came out of the game in the seventh inning to a standing ovation and tipped his cap to the fans.
"That was great," said Lester, who described the team as his new family. "It was fun to be on the other side of it and see these fans go crazy. They really love the A's."
Lester gave up one run in the third, on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Salvador Perez, and two more in the seventh, though left fielder Jonny Gomes' throw to the plate trying to get outfielder Lorenzo Cain on outfielder Nori Aoki's single might have allowed Kansas City to score an extra run: Aoki took second on the throw and scored on pinch hitter Christian Colon's two-out single.
It was the first time in nine starts that Lester (11-7) had allowed more than two earned runs.
"Intense, a competitor from the first pitch on," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "As advertised, for me."
The A's, who had lost their previous two games, avoided what would have been just their second three-game losing skid of the season. At 67-42, Oakland holds the best record in baseball, but just a slim lead over the Angels, 1 1/2 games back in the AL West and scheduled to play later Saturday.
Gomes had two hits and two RBIs in his 2014 A's debut. He was a popular member of the 2012 A's team and is from nearby Petaluma, Calif.
"A's baseball is back!" Gomes said. "I grew up in that atmosphere."
Kansas City (56-53), chasing Detroit in the AL Central, lost for just the third time in 11 games.
Oakland ended a string of 20 innings without scoring run by pushing across eight in the fifth inning against Kansas City starter Jason Vargas and Aaron Crow.
Vargas, who had been a frequent A's nemesis while with the Mariners and Angels, didn't allow a baserunner through four innings. But catcher Derek Norris, making just his second start of the season in the cleanup spot, doubled to lead off the fifth. Gomes reached on a pop-up that Royals first baseman Billy Butler lost in the sun.
"Really through the first four innings and going into the fifth he hadn't even given up a hit," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It was vintage Vargas. He was spotting his fastball, changeup and then the wheels just fell off. We struggled to make a few plays for him out there."
After first baseman Stephen Vogt bunted into an out at third, the A's got five singles in a row to take a 4-1 lead. Designated hitter Alberto Callaspo, right fielder Josh Reddick, second baseman Nick Punto and shortstop Jed Lowrie provided RBIs.
"I left some balls up, we didn't play defense and that's what happens. Unraveled," Vargas said. "As a whole we weren't very good in the fifth inning. That's what it comes down to."
Crow walked third baseman Josh Donaldson with the bases loaded to send in another run, and, with two outs, Gomes knocked a single to left to send in two more. When the ball got past left fielder Alex Gordon, Donaldson scored. Gordon said he took his eye off the ball.
Fuld threw out Gordon at the plate trying to score on Mike Moustakas' lineout to center in the fourth inning. "Sam Fuld made a great throw," Gordon said. "A throw from there on a line for a strike."
The A's lost Punto to a right hamstring strain when he slipped after being held up at third, and Melvin said Punto will be placed on the disabled list.
Punto was replaced by Eric Sogard, and the A's are likely to call up an infielder from Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday -- probably Andy Parrino, who has had previous stints with Oakland.
NOTES: INF Jake Elmore, designated for assignment on Thursday, was claimed on waivers by the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. ... As expected, the Royals placed 1B Eric Hosmer on the disabled list with a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal bone in his right hand. ... Kansas City manager Ned Yost said he plans to go with a three-man bench for the foreseeable future; the Royals have a 13-man pitching staff with LHP Jason Vargas (appendicitis) coming off the DL on Saturday to start at Oakland. ... OF Coco Crisp (neck) remained unavailable for the A's. ... OF Jonny Gomes made his first appearance with the A's since being acquired from Boston along with Saturday's starter, LHP Jon Lester, in exchange for OF Yoenis Cespedes. Gomes was in left field and batting fifth, spots Cespedes usually filled.