DAVE SKRETTA,AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Tommy Milone carried a shutout into the ninth inning and Grant Balfour held on for the save, securing the Oakland Athletics’ 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Milone (8-7) was in complete control before Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer drove in runs with one out in the ninth. Balfour came on and gave up a run-scoring single to Billy Butler, but he managed to retire Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas to end the game.
It was the 22nd save of the season and the 40th straight for Balfour, which matched the Oakland record for consecutive saves set by Dennis Eckersley from Sept. 15, 1991-Aug. 7, 1992.
Milone, who had been battered in his last three starts, outpitched Wade Davis (4-7), who gave up three runs in seven innings in a respectable outing of his own.
Josh Reddick doubled, tripled and drove in a pair of runs for the A’s (51-36), who have won seven of nine to move a season-best 15 games over .500.
Much of that success has been due to pitching. The A’s staff went 18 1-3 innings without allowing a run before the Royals plated two in the ninth Friday night, and Milone was two outs shy of racking up the A’s third shutout in their last eight games.
A.J. Griffin allowed two hits in throwing his first career shutout last Wednesday against the Reds. Dan Straily and the Oakland bullpen beat the Cubs 1-0 on Thursday.
The recent history for Milone and Davis pointed to runs-a-plenty on Friday night. Milone had been pounded in his last three starts, and Davis was yanked after one-plus inning last Saturday.
So naturally, the two of them took turns mowing through hitters.
Milone retired his first 11 batters, and only twice allowed a ball to get out of the infield through the first three innings. The left-hander finally gave up a single to Hosmer with two outs in the fourth, but that was it until David Lough’s two-out single in the sixth.
It was quite the turnaround from his last three starts, when Milone allowed 14 runs and 21 hits while failing to make it into the seventh inning in games against Texas, Cincinnati and St. Louis — an ugly period that caused his ERA to balloon from 3.61 to 4.17.
Davis had an even uglier performance his last time out, when he threw 69 pitches and allowed six runs and walked five without getting an out in the second inning against Minnesota.
The right-hander only needed 10 pitches to get through the first inning against Oakland, and Davis set down nine straight before Reddick’s double in the third. Eric Sogard came through with a timely single to shallow left field that gave the scrappy A’s a 1-0 lead.
Davis cruised through the fourth, and then issued a leadoff walk to John Jaso in the fifth. Reddick followed with a triple to right, and he scampered home on Coco Crisp’s sacrifice fly.
The A’s added three more in the ninth, taking advantage of an error on right fielder Lorenzo Cain to score a pair of unearned runs off J.C. Gutierrez.
The Royals tried to rally behind back-to-back doubles by Lough and Escobar, and consecutive singles by Hosmer and Butler. But the unflappable Balfour managed to get Cain and Moustakas on harmless groundouts.
NOTES: Royals OF Alex Gordon passed his concussion tests after colliding with the wall while trying to make a catch Wednesday night. He could return this weekend. … The Royals requested unconditional release waivers on OF Jeff Francoeur, who was designated for assignment June 30. LHP Francisley Bueno accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Omaha. … A’s LHP Brett Anderson plans to play catch Saturday after a CT scan cleared him to begin walking on his right foot without a boot. He’s been on the DL with a stress fracture since May 1. … RHP Jarrod Parker will start Saturday for Oakland against Royals RHP Ervin Santana.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.