OAKLAND -- Coco Crisp’s two-out, bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning on Tuesday night gave the A’s a three-run lead in what had been a 1-1 game. But to a team that had lost five in a row, and an offense that has struggled to come up with clutch hits recently, manager Bob Melvin said it "felt like about 10 runs at the time."
The triple loomed large after the game had ended, not only because it provided enough of a margin for the A’s to snap their longest losing streak of the season with a 6-2 win over the New York Mets. It was also big personally for Crisp, who came in batting .130 in his previous 13 games and had gone 2-for-23 on the A’s recent road trip.
As the A’s leadoff hitter, Crisp is often referred to as the "igniter" of the offense, and the A’s have said he sets a tone for the rest of the lineup. It’s not often Crisp goes through a prolonged stretch with little production like he has recently, and both he and Melvin said they’re hopeful Tuesday was a sign of change -- both for him and the offense as a whole.
"It’s not like he was striking out all the time, it’s not like he’s taking off-balance swings," Melvin said. "He was hitting some balls hard at people. But that gets uncomfortable for a player, there’s no doubt … So yeah, I think a hit like that, especially with runners in scoring position in a tight game like that, can do wonders for the personality."
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"He’s clutch, man," said reliever Sean Doolittle. "He loves the spotlight. And tonight he came through when we needed it most."
Crisp also singled in the third inning for his first multi-hit game in more than a month. He acknowledged the recent stretch has "been tough."
"I haven’t been hitting well at all, so trying to figure out some things to be successful with whatever I’m dealing with," he said. "I felt like these past couple of days, whatever I’ve been trying to do seems like it could work. So I’m trying to stick with that, see what happens."
Crisp declined to go into specifics about what he has been working on, but acknowledged that seeing some results Tuesday night "felt good. I’m the leadoff hitter, so I want to get on base to be able to help the team. So trying to figure out a way to do that.
"A couple (other) guys have hit a little bit of a downfall, too," he said. "When you’re consistent the whole year, sooner or later it’s going to happen. The past couple years, it happened early and we came out of it. Now I guess this is the time we have to come out of it, it’s just later."
The A’s scored more than three runs for just the second time in their last nine games, a stretch in which they’re 2-7. The Angels beat the Red Sox on Tuesday, 4-3, so the A’s remain a half-game out of first place in the A.L. West, with a significant series against the Angels looming this weekend.
There’s still a game left in this brief interleague series Wednesday afternoon, followed by an off-day for the A’s, but it would no doubt have been difficult to go into that showdown with the Angels on the heels of a season-long six- (or possibly seven-game) losing streak.
Crisp said the A’s demeanor hadn’t been affected by the five losses in a row. "We come in, joke around," he said. "Even through this stretch the team’s mentality or morale hasn’t changed. It just sucks that you’re losing. So we just come back in, try to have fun, enjoy being in the big leagues and try to win a game. Today we were back on the right track."
Melvin said there was no extra sense of urgency Tuesday, because "to an extent, there’s a sense of urgency you have to have every game. It shouldn’t be because you’ve lost a few games in a row.
"But certainly Coco’s hit was huge," he said. "And the offense was a little more like what we’re used to seeing, making pitchers work, making them throw some pitches, drawing some walks, getting some big hits. So it was good to see."
* A’s starter Scott Kazmir had to work as well, particularly early on, as he allowed five baserunners over the first three innings but stranded all of them. Kazmir ended up going six innings and allowing only one run on Travis d’Arnaud’s solo homer in the fourth to earn his 14th win of the season.
Kazmir said the Mets were aggressive in the early innings on his fastball and that he tried to adjust by throwing more off-speed pitches, especially early in counts. He said he ended up in quite a few deep counts because he wasn’t commanding the off-speed well at first, though "later on I started to feel more comfortable about throwing my curveball, slider and changeup."
Back in June, the Mets handed Kazmir his worst outing of the season -- seven runs in just three innings -- and he said their approach Tuesday was similar. He realized it early and said if he’d "had a little better feel for (my off-speed pitches) I think maybe I would’ve cut down on the pitches a little bit." He exited at 105 pitches after six innings.
Still, Kazmir achieved a personal milestone -- with his 14th win, he set a new career high, with nearly a month and a half left to go in the regular season.
"Sure," he said when asked if that’s significant to him, "but where we’re at right now, that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. We’ve got to take care of business, and all you can think about is tomorrow."
As for the importance of the win for the A’s, Kazmir said: "It takes a little pressure off us, I guess, after losing five straight. But we’ve just got to stay aggressive, and I think we’ll be just fine."
* Josh Reddick accounted for the rest of the A’s scoring with a two-run home run off of Gonzalez Germen in the eighth inning. Since returning from the DL on July 22, Reddick has actually been one of the few consistent contributors for the A’s -- he’s batting .304 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 26 games.
As Crisp pointed out, Reddick’s homer snatched a save opportunity from Doolittle, who came out to pitch the ninth anyway. It was just the second appearance since Aug. 8 for Doolittle, and Melvin said he and Luke Gregerson, who pitched a scoreless eighth, would likely have pitched Tuesday regardless because of their light workload lately.
It ended up that both were called on to protect a lead. Doolittle, for one, said he was glad -- his last outing, Aug. 18, came in the eighth inning of a game the A’s trailed 7-3. "It was awesome, one of the ways we draw it up," Doolittle said. "Much more comfortable pitching in that situation (Tuesday) than down three or four runs."
* Melvin was asked about Derek Norris appearing to be less than 100 percent running the bases and said Norris is dealing with some "back issues. It doesn’t affect him when he’s catching," Melvin said. "It’s when he turns it up (running) that it bothers him some." He said Norris will be off Wednesday.
* It’s Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler (8-8, 3.49) against the A’s Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 3.21) in the finale Wednesday. First pitch at 12:35 p.m.