Gomes caps A's comeback for fifth straight win

Gomes caps A's comeback for fifth straight win

Gomes caps A's comeback for fifth straight win
OAKLAND -- In a 4-4 game, San Diego appeared to have won the chess match in the bottom of the seventh inning. After A's manager Bob Melvin sent righty Jonny Gomes to face Padres left-hander Joe Thatcher, San Diego manager Bud Black countered with right-hander Luke Gregerson.

Black had the matchup advantage, and to make it more bleak for Oakland, Gomes came in cold off the bench and hitless in his last 34 at-bats as a pinch-hitter. But if there's one thing Gomes can do, it's hit fastballs -- and Gregerson found that out the hard way.

Gomes held off on a slider and crushed a 3-1 fastball over the middle of the plate to left-center field for a home run, capping the A's 6-4 victory. Oakland increased its season-long winning streak to five games and clinched back-to-back series wins for the first time since early May.

"It's something I've battled my whole life," Gomes said. "It's the 'can't hit righties,' it's the 'can't hit the slider.' It's almost, on their part, a given [to get me out]. You don't take it personal by any means, but at the same time, if you're a competitor, you've got to dig in a little more and get it done."

The teams combined to score seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings, but before that, the game proceeded rather quietly. A's starter Tyson Ross, called up from Triple-A Sacramento to make a spot start in place of the injured Brandon McCarthy, looked much improved from his previous stint in the Majors.

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Left-handed hitters have given Ross his most trouble this season, but he held the Padres' lefty-heavy lineup to just one hit -- Carlos Quentin's two-run homer -- over six innings.

Ross, who was told in the Minors to work on pitching inside and on not being as predictable with pitches, struggled with his command, especially early. He walked four batters and hit another. But the 25-year-old also had his slider working well, helping him limit the damage and allowing him to strike out six batters. In Melvin's words, Ross was "effectively wild."

"Anytime you're in the Minor Leagues, it's a chance to work on things without the pressure of having big league hitters up there and everything riding on it," Ross said. "It was nice to be able to go down for a couple starts and work out a couple things."

"We saw a lot of fastballs early but as the game progressed, he got underneath us with a lot of sliders," added Black. "He's a tall guy [6-foot-6] with good depth to his slider. You saw our guys swing over top of it."

It looked like the Ross' effort was enough to earn him the win thanks to the three runs the A's pushed across against San Diego starter Ross Ohlendorf, but left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle gave up a two-run double in the seventh to spoil Ross' effort.

Oakland, though, showed resiliency. The A's tied it up in the seventh when Gregerson threw a wild slider that bounced off catcher John Baker's glove, allowing Cliff Pennington to score the tying run from third. Gomes followed, and the bullpen recovered from Doolittle's mishap to preserve the win.

Unlike some of Oakland's recent wins, the team didn't simply outslug its opponent -- the A's had to battle and rally back to nab this one.

"It's sign of a team that's pretty confident in what they're doing," Melvin said. "We got held down offensively early on and had a lead. For the first time, Sean got hit a little bit, but it's the hitters' job to pick him up. The pitchers have been picking them up for the better part of the season. The way we've been swinging the bats, I don't think anybody thought it was over once we got down."

A's first baseman Brandon Moss helped stop the Padres' last real threat with two runners on in the eighth, snaring a hot line drive off the bat of Yonder Alonso and tapping the base for an inning-ending double play.

Right-hander Ryan Cook worked a perfect ninth to tally his third save in four chances. Melvin said after the game that Cook would get most save opportunities from this point forward.

Oakland will go for its second straight sweep at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday.

"We're starting to get a little character in here," Gomes said. "We're starting to keep our chins up, all the way to the last inning and the last out."

Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.