OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Matt Olson had never hit a ball to the second level of elevated bleachers, even in batting practice.
He sure found a timely moment to accomplish the feat, hitting a tying homer leading off the seventh before Seth Brown hit a go-ahead double two batters later, leading the Oakland Athletics past the Kansas City Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night.
“That was one of my better swings,” Olson said with a smile, offering little more explanation except that the ball doesn’t usually carry like that at night.
Olson’s drive to center reached the Coliseum seats above the luxury suites — a spot only a handful of sluggers have visited. Jorge Lopez (4-8) then hit Mark Canha with a pitch before Brown doubled.
“The home run that Oley hit inspired everybody,” manager Bob Melvin said.
A.J. Puk (2-0) followed Brett Anderson and struck out two over two shutout innings for his second major league win. Liam Hendriks struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save in 29 opportunities.
Hendriks’ 116 strikeouts as a reliever this season passed Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers — 115 in 1975 — for most in franchise history.
The A’s, who hold the top AL wild-card spot, bounced back after their six-game winning streak was snapped by Monday’s 6-5 loss to the Royals in the series opener.
Kansas City’s Nick Dini hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth for the game’s first run.
Anderson allowed five hits over five innings and would have liked to go longer, but Melvin is trying to get some younger pitchers like Puk and Jesus Luzardo key experience down the stretch. The left-hander has received three or fewer runs of support in 16 of his last 22 starts.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go longer but having a couple lefties throwing upper-90s after you is never a bad option,” Anderson said.
Lopez — who has only won on the road this season — missed a chance at winning three straight starts for the first time in his career. Demoted to the bullpen for an extensive stretch midseason, he has been steady of late.
The right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in six innings in his first career start against the A’s and second appearance.
“The last three, four starts I’ve been doing the same, trusting my sinker and have that power curveball after those sinkers,” Lopez said. “That’s a team that will challenge you. You just have to stay down in the zone and try to make them uncomfortable.”
Ryan McBroom doubled leading off the fifth and advanced on a single by Cheslor Cuthbert before Dini’s sac fly for Kansas City, which took pregame infield practice — a rare sight for September.
Majors hits leader Whit Merrifield, coming off three consecutive two-hit games for the Royals, went 0 for 4.
The A’s improved to 12-4 in September, second in baseball only to Milwaukee’s 13-3. The Brewers beat San Diego at home.
Athletics: RHP Mike Fiers underwent an MRI exam for nerve irritation in his hand, and then threw a bullpen session. He is scheduled to make his next start, likely one of this weekend’s games against Texas. Fiers left his start Saturday in the second inning because of numbness. … Melvin was a late arrival after receiving another round of injections in his troublesome neck. … OF Ramon Laureano had a night off from starting after playing four of the previous five games, though he came in late. Laureano was activated from the injured list Sept. 6 after missing 32 games with a stress reaction in his lower right leg and Melvin is being careful to not overextend him.
Right-hander Homer Bailey (13-8, 4.76 ERA) pitches for the A’s against his former Royals club, opposite lefty Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.55 ERA). Bailey was acquired by Oakland in a trade July 14. He was the winning pitcher in a 19-4 victory at Kansas City on Aug. 26. Duffy is 4-0 with a 2.89 ERA over eight appearances and seven starts vs. Oakland.
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