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A's off to quick start, blast Astros

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A's rookie first baseman Nate Freiman's dream came true Monday night when he hit his first major league home run, a three-run shot in the first inning of Oakland's 11-2 win over the Houston Astros.

But as he was rounding the bases, he couldn't stop thinking about what had happened earlier that day when deadly bombs went off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, not far from his childhood home of Wellesley.

"It was a pretty bittersweet feeling, to be honest," Freiman said. "For me, it's a dream come true. For my family, I'm thankful that everyone's safe, but for a lot of families back where I come from, it was a nightmare. So, you know, it's an amazing feeling today, but we're not going to forget about what happened in Boston. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody there. ... My family's there. Great night for the team, for me, but we're definitely thinking about everyone in Boston tonight."

Freiman said he heard about the tragedy from his family.

"I found out from them what happened. With that was the fact they're OK," he said. "I have some great memories. I grew up in Wellesley, which is the halfway point of the marathon. Every year we'd go down and watch the runners go by. We used to have season tickets to the Red Sox in the early '90s. We'd go to the Patriots Day game, the 11 a.m. game. So this hit really close to home. It's a great day, a great night in Oakland, great to get that win after two losses. Great to see Tommy Milone, the way he (pitched), but for everyone in Boston, we're all of us thinking about them tonight."

Freiman's blast into the left-field seats was the big blow for the A's in a six-run first inning off Astros lefthander Erik Bedard, who lasted just one-third of an inning in his 191st career start, on a cold, windy night at the Coliseum. It was the shortest start of his long major-league career.

Bedard gave up just two hits, but one was Freiman's three-run blast and the other was Brandon Moss' two-run single. Bedard walked six and threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded that brought home the A's first run. He threw 35 pitches, only 18 for strikes, before being relieved by right-hander Paul Clemens. Clemens held the A's to no runs on one hit over the next 5.1 innings, despite dislocating the pinky on his throwing hand.

"I was trying to throw strikes, but it just didn't happen," Bedard said. "That was a big game for Clemens. You can't ask for more than that."

Freiman homered against an Astros team that had selected him in the Rule 5 draft from San Diego but later waived him in March. The A's claimed him off waivers on March 23, less than two months after trading first baseman Chris Carter to Houston as part of a five-player deal.

"I have nothing but good things to say about them," Freiman said of the Astros. "They gave me an outstanding opportunity. They treated me great. I got some really, really good instruction over there, learned a lot. Again, as long as I'm not in the other dugout, I'll be rooting for them."

Milone, coming off a 13-10 rookie season, improved to 3-0, winning his third straight start this year and fifth straight dating to last year. He allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked none.

Milone said he had command of all of his pitches.

"I felt like no matter what pitch was put down, I was able to throw it for a strike," he said. "I felt like, especially after that first inning when we put up a six-spot, it's' pretty important to kind of pound the zone and get them out of there early and keep the team in the game, try to keep them off the board. Just kind of get out of those innings pretty quickly and get us hitting."

A's shortstop Jed Lowrie drove in four runs, going 2-for-4 and raising his average to .385. Moss went 2-for-4 and drove in three.

The A's snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 4-0 this year against the Astros, who lost their third straight game.

Bedard had gone 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA in his five previous starts against the A's before Monday. He had a 0.00 ERA this season, allowing just two hits over 7.1 innings with one start and his first career save.

Then Bedard took the mound Monday, and his nightmare began.

Bedard walked Coco Crisp, Derek Norris and Chris Young to load the bases. After striking out Lowrie, Bedard uncorked a 2-1 wild pitch to Josh Donaldson, as Crisp raced home to give the A's a 1-0 lead. Then Donaldson walked, reloading the bases.

Moss fell behind 0-2, fouled a pitch back, then lined a two-run single to right, bringing Norris and Young home.

"He just didn't have it," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Bedard. "He's a veteran guy. He'll come back and have a great game."

Freiman, making his fourth start of the season, launched a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats for a three-run homer, putting the A's ahead 6-0 and ending Bedard's night.

Clemens came on and got out of the inning without further damage. At one point during his stint, he dislocated his pinky finger.

"It happens all the time," Clemens said. "The trainer was able to pop it back in."

The Astros cut the A's lead to 6-1 in the top of the fourth when Jason Castro singled, moved to second on J.D. Martinez's single and scored on Carlos Pena's two-out single off Milone.

Houston cut Oakland's lead to 6-2 in the seventh when Jose Altuve hit a two-out single, scoring Ronny Cedeno. With runners on first and second, left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle took over for Milone and struck out Justin Maxwell, ending the rally.

The A's scored three more runs in the bottom of the seventh. After Derek Norris walked and Young doubled off reliever Xavier Cedeno, Lowrie hit a two-run single to center, making it 9-2. Moss doubled Lowrie home.

The A's added two more runs in the eighth when Crisp walked, Norris doubled and Lowrie hit a two-run single to center.

NOTES: Major League Baseball on Monday celebrated the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, but Porter, an African American, said every day is Jackie Robinson Day to him. "I think it's always meaningful when this day comes around, but it's pretty much something that I honor every day," said Porter, a former A's outfielder. ... A's outfielder Coco Crisp returned to the starting lineup Monday night against Houston after missing two games with a strained left groin he suffered Friday night against Detroit. He went 1-for-3 with a double and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... A's outfielder Yoenis Cespedes (strained muscle, left hand) did some throwing and running Monday but still has a soft cast on his left hand to keep it immobilized and promote healing, A's manager Bob Melvin said. He was injured Friday night against Detroit and was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday. "I know he certainly isn't in as much pain as he was the day after," Melvin said. ... Infielder Adam Rosales (strained left rib cage muscle) increased his workload Monday and could go on a minor league rehab assignment as early as Thursday, barring any setbacks, Melvin said. ... Astros outfielder Fernando Martinez (strained left oblique) started in right field Monday night for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Red Hawks against Memphis in the second game of his rehab assignment. Martinez, who has been on the disabled list since March 27, went 0-for-3 with on RBI and two strikeouts as the DH on Sunday against Memphis and 0-for-3 with an RBI on Monday. "We'll monitor that closely, and Lord willing, he won't have any setbacks and he'll be ready to join us at some point soon," Porter said.

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