KANSAS CITY, Mo. The last thing Tommy Milone wanted to do was serve as a setup man for Grant Balfour.
But given that the first eight innings of Milone's night consisted of him allowing just two baserunners to the Kansas City Royals, the fact that Balfour had to come on to get a club record-tying 40th consecutive save in the A's 6-3 win Friday didn't sting too badly.
Balfour tied Hall of Fame reliever Dennis Eckersley with this save, 22 of which have come this season. Balfour has gone 14 months without blowing a save. He has specialized in one-run saves. This one was abnormal in that he came into a 6-2 game with two men on and one out.
The Royals got one hit off Balfour, and one of his two inherited runners scored before he closed the door to secure Milone's eighth win.
"We can go there if you want," Milone said when a Kansas City writer asked him about setting up Balfour for the easy save for the record. "That record is pretty remarkable. But if you look at Grant, it's not surprising. It's pretty cool. I'm happy for him."
Balfour was happy, too, but not inordinately so.
"Obviously (40) is a great number," Balfour said. "I can only speak highly of (Eckersley). If I have half the career he did, I'll be able to walk away happy. I see his name and his number every day (etched in the upper reaches of Mount Davis in O.co Coliseum). But this was Tommy's game."
Milone, a 26-year-old left-hander, hasn't established himself the way the 35-year-old Balfour has. Milone did seem close to making a big first step with his first complete game and shutout within his grasp with one out and no one on in the ninth inning.
At that point, however, the Royals put together four consecutive singles to knock Milone out of the game and another off Balfour before things quieted down.
"The first eight innings were really good," Milone said. "I wish I could go back and pitch the ninth inning over. But I felt in control all night. In the ninth, they had some good at-bats. It was more them than me. They did a good job putting the ball in play."
The first eight innings consumed just 85 pitches for Milone, one reason why he was feeling fresh heading into the ninth. Another was the fact that Oakland's offense put one run on the board in the third, two more in the fifth and three more in the ninth.
Milone scarcely shook off catcher John Jaso.
"I was telling him in the game he had magic fingers the first eight innings," Milone said. "I felt good enough about the pitches he called to have trust in him."
He also had trust in right fielder Josh Reddick, who caught seven fly balls, a few of the above-average variety.
"After awhile, I went to him and told him to get me an inning off," Reddick said jokingly. "He did, but then there were more."