A’s get long-awaited clutch hit as mammoth losing streak ends

Tribune Content Agency

OAKLAND, Calif. — Ryan Noda delivered the hit the Oakland A’s have wanted — and needed — for close to two weeks.

Noda connected on a three-run home run in the fifth inning off Michael Soroka, helping lead the A’s to a desperately needed 7-2 win over the Atlanta Braves before a Coliseum crowd of 8,556 on Monday as Oakland snapped a season-long 11-game losing streak.

Noda’s homer, his sixth of the season and his second in as many days, came on an 82-mph changeup from Soroka and just cleared the right field wall down the first base line. The blast was part of a four-run fifth inning for the A’s, who had scored three runs or less in each of their 11 straight losses.

Pitchers and Bay Area natives Paul Blackburn and Lucas Erceg combined to allow one run and four hits over the first seven innings for Oakland (11-45). Erceg (1-0) picked up the win for his first career MLB victory.

Shintaro Fujinami gave up a solo home run to former Athletics first baseman Matt Olson in the eighth inning as the Braves cut the deficit to 4-2. But the A’s scored three times in the bottom of the eighth as Ramon Laureano, Shea Langeliers, and Jace Peterson all collected RBI base hits, giving Oakland some welcome breathing room.

Trevor May worked a scoreless ninth inning for Oakland, which is now 6-23 at home this season. Their series with the Braves continues Tuesday and Wednesday.

The A’s five-run win represented their largest margin of victory of the season, as they won two other games by four runs. Seven of the A’s 11 wins this season have come by one run.

What was more important for the A’s was earning their first victory since May 16 when they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-8 in 12 innings.

Blackburn was activated off the injured list Monday as he made his first start since Aug. 4 of last season. The Antioch native struck out six and allowed four hits over four innings and threw 81 pitches before he was removed in favor of Erceg, a San Jose native.

Blackburn, the A’s representative at the 2022 All-Star Game, dealt with a litany of ailments over the last nine months.

He missed the last two months of the 2022 season with an inflamed right middle finger and a tear of the flexor tendon sheath. It was initially thought that Blackburn would be available to start this season on the active roster, but he suffered a right middle fingernail avulsion in March and later developed a blister on that same finger in mid-April.

It looked like Blackburn was again bothered by that same finger in the third inning as he had a 2-0 count against former A’s catcher Sean Murphy. Play paused for a minute as A’s manager Mark Kotsay and a team trainer came out to see Blackburn, who remained in the game and walked Murphy before he got Marcell Ozuna to fly out.