Four-run sixth gives A's, Anderson win
Left-hander earns first victory since coming off the DL
OAKLAND -- Now there's the Brett Anderson the A's have been waiting to see.
After missing two months with left elbow inflammation, Anderson struggled in his first start back from the disabled list on Friday in Chicago. But the 22-year-old southpaw had no such problems on Wednesday, as he corralled the Royals to pace the A's to a 4-3 victory and a series win.
"He looked much sharper today," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "You can tell that that first start he had against Chicago was a stepping stone. He built up from that start and his fastball has a lot more life on it and his breaking pitches were a lot sharper."
Against the White Sox, Anderson was tagged for five earned runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. But the biggest difference for Anderson on Wednesday was his offspeed stuff, particularly his slider.
"My fastball velocity probably isn't quite there," Anderson said. "But my breaking ball I threw with conviction and got some strikeouts. ... It's going to be a work in progress for another couple starts, I'd feel, but I took a step in the right direction."
Things certainly didn't look good for Anderson in the first inning, as Kansas City sent six men to the plate and scored a pair of runs. Anderson issued a leadoff walk to Chris Getz and a single to Mike Aviles to start the game, and both would come around to score.
After that, though, Anderson was nearly untouchable.
"I've had that twice in my young career," Anderson said of his slow start. "Last year against Rocco Baldelli, I threw a pitch and the strike zone just seemed like it was the size of a gnat. But once I got through that, I settled down, threw strikes and kind of kept them off balance."
Anderson faced one batter over the minimum through the next six innings to earn his first victory since May 29. Anderson finished seven strong innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits while striking out four. He exited after inducing an inning-ending double play from Alex Gordon.
"He didn't quite look normal the first inning," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He struggled through it a little bit and then it seemed like he found his arm slot, he found all of his pitches and he looked a lot better. Actually, his last inning was his sharpest inning."
For a while, it looked as Anderson's stellar afternoon would be all for naught. But a four-run A's rally in the sixth inning changed that. Through the first five frames, the A's looked flummoxed by Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan, who kept Oakland off balance with an array of offspeed pitches.
"We struggled early," Geren said. "I felt that some of the guys were getting frustrated because it didn't seem like O'Sullivan's stuff was unhittable -- we made it look like it was. Linking together some action and putting a big run-scoring inning was what we needed because we weren't getting much going before or after that."
Cliff Pennington led off the bottom of the sixth with a solid single up the middle to spark the outburst, as Oakland sent eight men to the plate. Pennington scored Oakland's first run on a Daric Barton bunt that O'Sullivan fielded before he committed a throwing error to first base. Suzuki tied the score at 2 with a scorching shot to the hot corner that Aviles couldn't handle, scoring Coco Crisp.
That set the stage for Kevin Kouzmanoff two batters later, who lifted a 2-1 fastball to deep center for a double that plated Barton and Suzuki, who barely beat the throw at home.
"Same pitch earlier in the game, ground ball to shortstop," O'Sullivan said. "He just got a better piece of the bat on it that time."
Kouzmanoff's drive ended up being the game-winner, as Craig Breslow surrendered a solo shot to Yuniesky Betancourt in the eighth to bring the game to its final margin.
Once again, Michael Wuertz proved to be an effective stand-in closer on Wednesday, as Andrew Bailey is still on the 15-day disabled list with a rib muscle strain. Wuertz turned in one of his finest performances of the year Wednesday, striking out Kansas City's 3-4-5 hitters in order to finish the game.
"Unbelievable," Geren said. "To strike out your 3-4-5 hitters with a one-run lead is about as difficult a save as you can get."
For Wuertz, it was all about his slider on Wednesday. Billy Butler, Jose Guillen and Kila Ka'aihue all went down swinging, all waving at his slider.
"When I faced him when he was with the Cubs in Spring Training all the time, I said, 'This guy's got an invisible slider,'" Suzuki said. "You see it so good and then it disappears."
Wuertz picked up his third save since Bailey went down on July 20. In 17 appearances (14 innings pitched) since giving up a 10th-inning home run to Cincinnati on June 21, Wuertz has a 1.93 ERA.
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.