Nomar hits one back to Boston
Garciaparra connects vs. former club as A's back Braden
OAKLAND -- So numerous, vocal and passionate are Bay Area-based Red Sox fans, they tend to turn Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum into Fenway Park West when Boston is in town.
Where better, then, for longtime Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra to hit his first home run with the A's?
Garciaparra, the American League Rookie of the Year for Boston in 1997 and a five-time All-Star with the team, made his first career game against the Red Sox a memorable one by ripping a solo homer in the fifth inning of Oakland's 8-2 victory in the opener of a three-game series.
Offering platitudes a-plenty, Garciaparra emphasized the importance of the win from team standpoint. Sample: "I'm just happy we won; we did a lot of good things out there."
Only after being gently pressed on the personal side of his reunion with the Red Sox did the 15-year veteran offer insight into whatever emotions he might have been experiencing.
"It was strange stepping into the box and seeing [catcher Jason] Varitek back there," Garciaparra said with a smile. "I think the last time I did that was in an intrasquad game in college."
Garciaparra and Varitek were also teammates at Georgia Tech University.
"Yeah, it's been a while since I've been back behind him," Varitek said.
Garciaparra, who was traded from Boston to the Cubs during the 2004 season, was on the disabled list when Chicago faced the Red Sox during Interleague Play in 2005. He played for the Dodgers from 2006-2008, but Los Angeles didn't face Boston during that span.
The homer, a line drive over the wall in left field, gave the A's a 6-1 lead,
"I'm sure it was pretty cool for him," said Jack Cust, who also homered. "It was a big run in that situation."
A's manager Bob Geren, who said he didn't know that Garciaparra had never played against the Red Sox, went the team route as well when asked about the home run.
"I'm sure that's a personal thing," he said. "But that was a nice add-on run."
Garciaparra, who signed with Oakland as a free agent three weeks into Spring Training, was just one of several Athletics who enjoyed a big night at the plate.
The Red Sox opened the scoring when red-hot Kevin Youkilis led off the top of the second inning with a home run off lefty Dallas Braden, but the A's stormed back against lefty Jon Lester in their half of the frame, getting a leadoff homer of their own from Cust.
That started a five-run barrage that featured an RBI single from Orlando Cabrera, a two-run double by Jason Giambi and an RBI single from Matt Holliday -- all with two out. Cabrera, Giambi and Kurt Suzuki each had two of Oakland's 12 hits, and Holliday had three, including an RBI triple in the seventh.
Bobby Crosby's sacrifice fly capped the scoring in the eighth.
"Don't be overwhelmed by this," Braden said of the offensive output. "This is just the tip of the iceberg with these guys. ... It's gonna be fun to watch."
Braden gave up an RBI single to David Ortiz in the sixth but escaped further damage when, with one out and two runners on, he struck out Youkilis, who entered the game batting .522, with a changeup before retiring J.D. Drew on a fly ball to center field.
"Getting Youkilis out," Braden said, "was huge."
"He had a real good changeup," Varitek said. "He was 'strike one' quite a bit, and he was able to expand the zone with it."
Lifted after Jason Bay's leadoff single in the seventh, Braden allowed six hits, walked one and struck out three on 95 pitches over six-plus innings.
"Braden threw a lot of good offspeed pitches, spotted his fastball, threw his changeup when he needed to, kept us off-balance," offered Boston skipper Terry Francona. "He pitched a very good game."
And the A's, with a little help from Garciaparra, took advantage of it. A day after being stifled by Seattle southpaw Erik Bedard in a 3-0 loss, Oakland faced another power lefty but pounded out six runs on 10 hits in six innings against Lester.
"Stuff-wise, he's one of the best left-handers in the league," Geren said. "He just didn't have his usual location tonight."
Added Garciaparra: "The guys just need to keep swinging. We've been swinging the bat well, but balls haven't been falling. Tonight they did. It was good to see."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.