Sparkplug Burns leads A's in all-around effort

Leadoff hitter robs potential homer, hits triple and scores winning run

Sparkplug Burns leads A's in all-around effort

SAN DIEGO -- The legend of Billy Burns continues to grow.

Oakland's speedster not only added to his collection of highlight-reel plays in Tuesday's 6-5 victory in San Diego, but reached base three times, scoring the winning run in the ninth to help the A's secure their first winning road trip since June of last year.

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"He's had a knack for doing that here recently," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "He just gets better and better. Defensively, we're seeing significant strides from when he got here. And he gets on base and creates havoc."

While the A's face uncertainty over the future of veteran outfielder Coco Crisp, sidelined through at least the All-Star break with ongoing neck issues that hampered his 2014 season, they've watched Burns excel in the interim.

The 25-year-old leads American League rookies with 53 hits, despite not playing his first game until May 2, and he's hit safely in 19 of the team's last 20 games, batting .322 in that span.

No one could have seen this coming -- especially since he wasn't even expected to be here right now.

"I would have said September at the earliest, based on what we saw last year," said Melvin. "Now, he had a great spring for us, but a full year at Triple-A, where he had never played before, would have been nice. When we had him here originally, we really didn't envision him staying that long, and all he's done is perform."

Before Burns helped the A's offense get going with a two-run triple in a three-run fifth inning against right-hander Andrew Cashner, and before he drew a two-out walk against one of the game's best closers in Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, stole second and scored on Eric Sogard's go-ahead single, he turned in yet another spectacular grab in center field.

Must C: Burns robs Upton

Burns' catch against the center-field wall not only robbed Justin Upton of extra bases -- possibly a home run -- but marked the start of an inning-ending double play, after he launched a relay throw to first base to double off Yonder Alonso.

"I knew it was hit pretty well, but it looked like he had a beat on it, and to make that play and to have the heads-up to get that ball in, that was huge," said starter Scott Kazmir. "He's been great. I think the most impressive thing is how much he's progressed since the beginning of the season. A young guy like that being able to make the adjustments that quick at this level, that's pretty cool to see."

Burns made two equally stellar catches in Kazmir's last start, and he was gifted a Louis Vuitton bag by the pitcher as a thank you.

This time, "I ran in and told Kaz, 'You don't have to buy me anything,'" said Burns, smiling. "And he gave me a high-five. I was just glad to make the play for him after the gesture the last outing."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.