Kennedy's second homer lifts A's to win
No-doubt shot in ninth boosts struggling Oakland offense
ARLINGTON -- Adam Kennedy might not have saved the A's season on Sunday afternoon. But he sure brightened the mood for a slumping offense that manager Bob Geren said needed "a jolt" before Sunday's game.
Kennedy provided that jolt.
He belted a tiebreaking home run with one out in the top of the ninth, helping the A's avoid losing a game they led by four runs and preventing a four-game sweep to Texas with a 5-4 victory on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
That Kennedy did it off Rangers closer Frank Francisco, who hadn't give up a run all season, might have been a surprise, except for the fact that Kennedy has been sizzling for several weeks now. Kennedy hit a first-inning homer off Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, who came into Sunday with the ninth-lowest ERA in the American League.
Kennedy, acquired from Tampa Bay on May 9, is batting .390 for the season. He went 3-for-5 on Sunday, actually breaking out of a mini-slump with only three hits in his last 18 at-bats.
"He's just been huge for us," Geren said. "We haven't had the greatest start to the year, but when it has gone well, he's been right in the middle of it."
Kennedy said he was looking for a fastball from Francisco on a 1-0 count, and he got one, pounding it 403 feet into the right-field upper deck. Kennedy has owned right-handed pitchers this season -- he is now batting .458 against right-handers. The left-handed Kennedy also had a hit in his only at-bat Sunday against a left-hander, Rangers rookie Derek Holland.
Francisco is no ordinary righty -- he's one of the best closers in the American League. He hadn't allowed a home run since Aug. 12 of last year.
"Off of a closer, you're not going to get a whole lot of chances," Kennedy said. "I just tried to get a good swing on it."
Kennedy's heroics helped the A's avoid a colossal loss. They led 4-0 entering the bottom of the seventh and two innings later found themselves tied and potentially facing a four-game sweep in Texas.
Things turned for the A's in that bottom of the seventh. Starter Dallas Braden, who had been pitching brilliantly, cut his left thumb on a medical kit before going out for the seventh. "I was looking for some megalytes," he said, referring to electrolyte pills to help deal with the searing Texas humidity.
Braden, whom Geren calls one of the "most mentally tough pitchers I've ever been around," tried to pitch with the cut, moving his thumb to the side of the ball. He gave up a single to Hank Blalock and a double to Marlon Byrd to start the seventh inning. "I had no feel for the ball," Braden said. "I'm lucky I didn't give up two home runs."
Braden finally came out. Geren said after the game there was nothing within the rules to do to stop the bleeding. Reliever Craig Breslow came in and, after getting an out, gave up a two-run double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to cut the A's lead to 4-2.
The Rangers tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with two more runs. Michael Wuertz, who allowed a couple of baserunners, turned the game over to closer Andrew Bailey, who gave up the lead a on a single to right and an infield hit.
"I really wanted to get Dallas out of that situation," Bailey said. "That was tough for him."
Braden had six strikeouts in six innings, and before the seventh was threatening to shut out a Rangers team that scored 14 runs on the A's on Saturday night. He said he put that and the potential sweep out of his mind as he took the mound Sunday.
"What happens in the four days I'm not pitching is none of my business," Braden said. "I want to win and root for our guys. I want nothing but the best for the team. But if I start worrying about the other 24 jobs, I'm hurting myself and the team."
On Sunday, Braden and Kennedy did something to lift a reeling A's team that was a season-worst 11 games under .500 while looking ahead to a four-game series in Chicago against the White Sox.
This was a big win from where the A's are sitting -- in last place.
"We were in a position to win at least two games," Geren said. "It helps in the standings and in games back, but it really helps emotionally. To cough up the lead and then beat a guy who hasn't given up a run all year, it's big for us for a lot of reasons."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.