OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—A sunny day at the Coliseum can cure many of the Oakland Athletics’ offensive woes. A lousy start by the opposing pitcher doesn’t hurt, either.
Eric Byrnes and pinch-hitter Billy McMillon hit three-run homers, and Ramon Hernandez and Mark Ellis also homered as the A’s wrapped up their next-to-last homestand of the regular season with an impressive power display in their 11th victory in 12 games at the Coliseum.
Every power hitter in Oakland history—from Reggie Jackson to Jose Canseco to Jason Giambi—has adored the Coliseum in hot weather. It’s one of the majors’ most pitching-favorable parks except on warm days, when the ball seems to rocket out of the stadium.
“It’s fun to hit in here when it’s hot and the ball is carrying,” said Byrnes, who homered for the first time in 39 games. “It feels like one of those new parks with the 250-foot fences. You just try to hit it up in the air and get it out of here. Even I was able to do it.”
The A’s have struggled on offense for most of the last two months, but scoring wasn’t a problem against the Angels and starter Scot Shields (4-5), who gave up four of the homers while laboring through four innings.
Oakland manager Ken Macha used the same lineup in each of the last three wins.
“You’d like to see consistency (on offense), but that’s not baseball,” Macha said. “Today, we took advantage of some balls up in the zone, and we didn’t miss them.”
The A’s began the day with a 2 1/2 -game lead over Seattle, which played at night against Texas. Oakland opens a six-game road trip with a stop at Texas on Friday night.
Chavez hit a solo homer in the first and a long two-run shot in the fifth. The A’s don’t estimate home run distances, but Chavez’s fifth-inning shot off reliever Gary Glover landed in the stands at least 30 feet above the 388-foot marker on the center-field fence.
It was the ninth multihomer game for Chavez, who leads AL third basemen with 27 homers. He has an extra-base hit in five straight games, as well as an eight-game hitting streak.
“I’ve been getting hits but haven’t really been hitting for power, so today was kind of a relief,” Chavez said.
Chavez typically finishes strong, but he has been better than ever this fall: He’s hitting .366 (15-of-41) with 11 RBIs in September after hitting .322 in August.
Rookie Rich Harden (5-4) gave up two early runs in a shaky outing, but his teammates quickly staked him to a huge lead. Harden yielded seven hits, three walks and three runs in 5 1-3 innings for just his second victory in seven starts.
Jose Molina had a sacrifice fly and Scott Spiezio scored two runs for the Angels, who scored just eight runs in the four-game series. Manager Mike Scioscia fielded a lineup of backups and minor leaguers around Garret Anderson, Scott Spiezio and Adam Kennedy.
“We’re not in a tryout camp here,” Scioscia said. “If (Darin) Erstad were healthy, if (Troy) Glaus were healthy, if Bengie (Molina) were healthy, if (Brad) Fullmer were healthy, those guys would be playing. Now, some of these guys who are the future for the club are getting a chance to play.”
The A’s homered in each of the first five innings. Hernandez’s two-run homer in the second—the 20th of his breakout offensive season—gave Oakland the lead.
After Ellis hit a solo homer in the third, Byrnes capitalized on Wilson Delgado’s two-out error at third base, hitting a three-run homer three pitches later. It was Byrnes’ first homer since June 29, when he hit for the cycle against San Francisco—shortly before his horrific two-month slump.
Shields allowed just five hits, but four were homers.
“I haven’t been able to hit my spots,” Shields said. “Today was the worst of it. The few times I reached the strike zone, they hit it out of the park. I just stink right now. I’m not doing my part.”
McMillon hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth off reliever Greg Jones.
The teams will finish their season series with three games in Anaheim next week. … The A’s lost a coin flip with the Mariners to determine the site of a possible one-game playoff to determine postseason seeding. If Oakland and Seattle finish with the same record, a playoff will be held at Safeco Field onSept. 29. … Chavez last hit two homers Aug. 6 at Detroit.