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Game 131 wrapup: Moss cleans up as cleanup hitter; add-on runs are back in Oakland’s repertoire; Milone finds groove from windup

Brandon Moss had a breakthrough year in 2012 when he hit 21 homers in less than two-thirds of a season as the A’s first baseman.

On Tuesday night he set a new personal best with his 22nd homer. There was a time not that long ago when it seemed that getting to 22 might take considerably longer than it did.

It took Moss 265 at-bats to get to 21 homers last year. He was at 366 at-bats coming into Thursday, and in his 368th at-bat he hit a go-ahead homer Tuesday to trigger the A’s 6-3 rain-shortened six-inning win over the Tigers.

    From July 12 to Aug. 18 Moss played in 27 games and went deep just twice. His average during that stretch was .256, better than his overall .238 average come Aug. 18, but the power wasn’t there.

The last eight games have seen Moss get back to the hitter he was last year. He’s 8-for-24 (.333) and four of the eight hits are home runs.

The homer off Justin Verlander was not just Moss’s first-ever homer off the 2011 Cy Young Award winner, it was the first regular-season hit for Moss against the Tiger stalwart.

He’s been moved quietly into the No. 4 spot in the lineup and he’s likely to stay there for a while because the man who had been batting fourth, Yoenis Cespedes, continues to scuffle. Cespedes did contribute and RBI double that tied the game in the third inning Tuesday, but he came into the game with just nine RBIs and a .198 batting average in his previous 23 games.

Manager Bob Melvin’s goal for most of the year has been to keep his two big right-handed bats, Cespedes and Josh Donaldson, separated in the batting order by at least one lefty (or switch-hitter) so as to make it difficult for opposing managers to work their bullpens against the A’s late in games.

On Tuesday, Donaldson moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup and Cespedes was back batting fifth, and given the club’s success – six runs in five-plus innings – it seems like this lineup might be around to stay.

 

–On Monday the A’s scored in the first, third, fourth sixth, seventh and eighth innings in beating the Tigers 8-6.

On Tuesday Oakland scored in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings, which is more impressive than it sounds because there were only five-plus innings played. The A’s scored in the sixth and had the bases loaded but the Tigers never recorded an out.

The back-to-back games with the A’s scoring in multiple innings, and sometimes with multiple runs, is a major positive trend for Oakland. The A’s have been hard-pressed to come up with much in the way of offense for most of August. And they’ve done it against two of the best pitchers on a staff that leads the AL in earned run average, Anibal Sanchez and Verlander.

“The key was later on to start adding on,’’ Melvin said. We’ve been able to do that two nights in a row, and against a club like that, it’s awfully important.

Moss said he’s liking what he’s seeing from the offense in Motown.

“Because of the depth of the (Tigers) lineup, to continue to go out and continue to get runs and put pressure on their pitches is huge,’’ Moss said. “you can’t sit back. That’s not going to do it, because they will get their runs.”

 

–Asked what the difference was between the first inning, when he couldn’t throw strikes, and the second through fifth innings, when he looked like the Tommy Milone the A’s grew used to seeing last year and earlier this season, Milone had no answer.

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “I started to attack the hitters and I felt more comfortable.’’

The change began with Milone getting Alex Avila to ground out in the second. Unlike in the first inning, when the Tigers continually had runners on base, now Milone could pitch from the windup instead of from the stretch. And for the most part he carried that through the final four innings.

He said “something didn’t feel right’’ until he was able to pitch from the windup.

“Then I felt more comfortable,’’ he said.

He also said it this wasn’t his first five-inning complete game. He had one in the minor leagues

John Hickey

Returning to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.