OAKLAND, Calif. — Lenny DiNardo was lights out again, and the Oakland Athletics found enough offense to avoid the embarrassment of being swept by the Royals at home for the first time in almost two decades.
DiNardo allowed three singles to Joey Gathright among his five hits en route to winning his third straight start and fifth consecutive decision, and Marco Scutaro and Dan Johnson each homered in a 6-1 victory over improving Kansas City on Sunday.
“Is that David Beckham?” teammate Nick Swisher joked while maneuvering past the media swarm around DiNardo’s locker.
Jeff DaVanon hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the first to give DiNardo an early cushion. Scutaro, the fabulous fill-in during his four-year Oakland tenure, hit a solo shot in the fourth for his seventh home run of the year and also had three singles and drove in another run. His four hits matched a career high, also accomplished last Sept. 15 against the White Sox.
Johnson connected for his 12th homer leading off the sixth and Jack Hannahan added an RBI double two batters later.
DiNardo (8-6) worked a career-long eight innings and is 5-0 in his last seven starts, including the first three-start winning streak of his career. He didn’t walk a batter for the first time in six starts and pitched two-hit ball into the seventh as the A’s avoided a third straight defeat on the heels of a four-game winning streak.
The left-hander hasn’t lost since July 13 at Minnesota, his first start after the All-Star break. He was efficient, too: as in 85 pitches with 58 strikes.
“Hopefully I’ll have a few more of those,” DiNardo said. “I was pretty economical out there.”
Kansas City outscored Oakland 16-5 in the first two games and had a 22-7 scoring edge, including the team’s 6-2 win at Texas on Thursday, during a three-game winning streak. But the Royals didn’t get on the board Sunday until Emil Brown’s RBI single in the seventh scored Mark Grudzielanek, who doubled leading off the inning.
“We didn’t take a good approach against him,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said of DiNardo. “He had a good cutter, he changed speeds and he threw strikes. We didn’t make him throw a lot of pitches and that’s to his credit. We didn’t have a lot of baserunners and we didn’t have a lot of opportunities.”
The Royals missed a chance for their first three-game sweep in Oakland since June 14-16, 1988, which would have been only the club’s fourth overall here. Kansas City last swept the A’s in Kansas City from May 18-20, 1999.
DiNardo is making quite the case to be in Oakland’s rotation come 2008, though manager Bob Geren isn’t ready to commit to anything yet.
“We all like Lenny. I like him a lot,” Geren said. “He’s definitely pitching well and we’re very happy with what he’s doing.”
Shannon Stewart had his first triple of the season leading off the first for the A’s, then scored on DaVanon’s sacrifice fly. Stewart added a sacrifice fly of his own in the sixth, when Oakland began the inning with four straight hits and managed five total in the frame off reliever John Bale.
Kyle Davies (1-2) allowed two runs and six hits in five innings, struck out four and walked three for Kansas City, which will finish its nine-game road trip with three games in Chicago starting tonight.
“We lost and I only gave them five innings,” Davies said. “I felt good out of the bullpen and I tried to take that with me into the game but maybe I was too amped up. I couldn’t get the ball down and I couldn’t locate my fastball. That leads to a lot of 3-2 counts and they were able to sit on the fastball. I didn’t make too many pitches.”
Davies was acquired at the trading deadline from Atlanta for Octavio Dotel and has only one win in his first four starts for the Royals. This marked his first start against the A’s since getting a no-decision in his only appearance on June 10, 2005.