OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Frank Thomas is at the point he ignores his surprisingly low batting average, focusing instead on how he can contribute to wins.
Razzed all game by third base coach Ron Washington to do something, the Big Hurt delivered.
Thomas hit a walkoff two-run homer for the seventh home run of the game, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 7-5 victory Thursday night and snapping the Los Angeles Angels’ season-best five-game winning streak.
The slugger got the green light to swing at a 3-0 pitch, sending the offering from Scot Shields (4-6) over the wall in left-center for his 19th home run of the year. It was Thomas’ fourth career walkoff homer and first since Aug. 16, 2003, also against the Angels while with the Chicago White Sox.
“There’s no better feeling in the game than a walkoff home run,” said Thomas, hitting .238 in his first season for the A’s. “I can’t complain about the average right now. … I’ve got to take responsibility when I get good pitches to hit, to do what I did there with 3-0. That’s the tone I can help set for this team.”
Thomas’ two RBIs gave him 1,509 for his career, tying him with Mickey Mantle for 43rd place on the all-time list.
Huston Street (2-3) recorded the final out in the top of the ninth for the win as the first-place A’s took the opener of this important four-game series between the two teams usually fighting to win the AL West in September. The Angels are the two-time defending division champions, having clinched in Oakland’s ballpark both times.
“We know this team’s going to be there,” Thomas said. “This is definitely the team we watch all year long.”
All-Star Vladimir Guerrero homered, drove in the tying run with a seventh-inning double and reached base five times for the Angels, who were coming off a sweep of the Seattle Mariners. Juan Rivera hit a pair of solo home runs and Mike Napoli also had a solo shot for Los Angeles.
Rivera had his second multihomer game this season after also hitting two on Tuesday at Seattle and the fifth of his career. He homered in back-to-back at-bats Thursday.
He homered to center in the second, raising his right fist in the air in celebration after rounding first. That drew boos from the crowd. Guerrero hit a towering shot to left leading off the fourth to tie the game at 2, then Rivera homered for the 10th time this season three batters later and celebrated the same way.
Thomas threw his right hand in the air after his game-winning homer—No. 467 of his career.
“The whole game I told him, ‘When are you going to do something to help us win,”’ Washington said. “That fires Frank up.”
Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the fourth and scored three times for the A’s after missing two games with food poisoning and Dan Johnson also homered. Swisher, who walked in his first two plate appearances, hit an 0-2 pitch from Kelvim Escobar over the left-field fence for his 20th home run of the year.
“Maybe I was so tired it kind of slowed everything down,” said Swisher, who threw up all day Tuesday.
Johnson hit a solo shot leading off the fourth for his first home run since June 11, a span of 19 games, and Jay Payton added a two-run single for Oakland.
Escobar, who ended a seven-game losing streak spanning eight starts when he beat the Dodgers on July 1, allowed three earned runs and six hits in six innings, struck out three and walked four.
“They did a good job of pressuring us,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We cracked the door open a little bit for them, but I think for the most part their pitchers did a good job to minimize some damage. We couldn’t break the game open.”
The teams faced off for the first time since May 2, when A’s catcher Jason Kendall charged pitcher John Lackey after Lackey threw inside and yelled at him. Both players were ejected and Kendall was suspended four games.
Esteban Loaiza allowed four home runs to match his career high. It was the third time he’s allowed four homers and first since April 13, 2004, against Kansas City while with the Chicago White Sox.
The Angels matched their season high with four homers. … Orlando Cabrera reached base safely in his 63rd straight game for the Angels when he singled in the fifth. … 3B Eric Chavez also was back in the lineup for Oakland after resting his sore forearms Wednesday in the series finale against Detroit. … Of Payton’s 18 RBIs since June 13, 13 of those have either tied the game or put the A’s ahead—nine to go ahead. … Napoli ended an 0-for-13 funk with his sixth-inning home run.