Norris' strong spring continues with three-run homer
A's catcher raises average to .353 with seven RBIs in Cactus League games
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Catcher Derek Norris' three-run homer gave Oakland an early lead but the Royals rallied and the teams settled for a 9-9 Cactus League tie on Friday at Surprise Stadium.
A two-out home run in the ninth inning by Royals catcher Frank Pena off right-hander Matt Buschmann created the deadlock.
Alex Gordon hit a towering home run to right field in the Royals' second inning. The solo shot was Gordon's first homer this year; he's hitting .367 (11-for-30).
The A's Michael Taylor belted a solo homer to left field off Royals closer Greg Holland in the fourth. A's leadoff man Billy Burns went 3-for-4 with a walk.
Left-hander Danny Duffy, vying with right-hander Yordano Ventura for the Royals' fifth rotation spot, had a rough outing. In two innings, Duffy gave up five runs on five hits, three walks and a hit batter. He threw 65 pitches, just 36 for strikes.
Duffy kept the damage minimal from a first-inning jam. The A's loaded the bases as Burns and Norris each singled and John Jaso was hit by a pitch. Duffy walked Taylor to force in a run but then got an inning-ending double play.
"I got a nice ground ball, [Omar] Infante made a great play and turned two. And the next thing you know, I was back out there, feeling like I was on the attack," Duffy said.
"One thing led to another, I left a pitch up to their three-hole hitter and he smoked it. So I've got to figure out a way to go about it out there because that's not going to help this team right now. And that's what I want to do. It doesn't happen overnight in Spring Training. You hear every cliché in the book but I definitely need to get a move on."
Nate Freiman opened the second with a single before Duffy got two outs. Burns singled to score Freiman and, after Eric Sogard walked, Burns led a double steal with his eighth stolen base. Then Norris hammered a three-run homer into the sun-bathing crowd on the left-center-field berm.
Right-hander Michael Mariot took over for Duffy in the third which began with Sam Fuld's triple and Taylor's sacrifice fly.
A's right-hander Dan Straily, a 10-game winner last year as a rookie, pitched four-plus innings, allowing three hits. He left after Brett Hayes opened the fifth with a single.
"He pitched in a little more today than we've seen," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Straily. "He went in and out with his fastball and at the end of the day gave up three hits and a run. ... When he's spotting his fastball, his slider, which is his best pitch, works."
Dan Otero, who relieved Straily, was tagged for three runs in the sixth but Burns' error in left field contributed to a couple of them. Successive singles by Ramon Hernandez, Maxwell and Jimmy Paredes loaded the bases. Danny Valencia singled to left field for one run but Burns missed the ball, two more runners scored and Valencia reached third. But Otero got the next three batters, stranding Valencia.
Behind, 8-5, the Royals rallied in the eighth inning after two were out against right-handers Ryan Doolittle and Buschmann. Jason Donald singled, Carlos Peguero walked and Christian Colon hit a run-scoring single to bump Dootlittle. Ramon Hernandez and Maxwell each had RBIs singles off Buschmann for an 8-8 tie.
However, the A's broke the tie in the ninth against Minor League left-hander Noel Arguelles. They loaded the bases and scored on Daniel Robertson's two-out infield single. Then came Pena's score-tying blast down the left-field line.
Up next: Tommy Milone, with a clear chance to make the Opening Day roster, will look for a second straight solid outing when the A's visit the Giants in a split squad game at 3:05 p.m. PT. Milone gave up three runs in each of his first two spring starts but did not allow an earned run in four innings last time out. In the A's other game, Arnold Leon will get his first start against the Rangers at Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 1:05 p.m. PT. Leon has not given up a run in seven innings this spring.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.