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KC@OAK: Milone shines in his A's debut

OAKLAND -- Consider the A's well-rested.

They at least looked the part against the Royals on Monday, after an off-day that followed a defensively-challenged showing the two nights prior.

Finally facing a team not named the Mariners, Oakland put on an excellent defensive expo to back an equally impressive outing by lefty Tommy Milone, who tossed eight shutout innings in his season debut en route to a 1-0 A's victory -- marking Oakland's first win since March 29 in Tokyo.

"We have to play good defense," manager Bob Melvin said. "It was a little bit disappointing the first two games we didn't, but to come back with this today, where we played well in a game that had the feel of a low-scoring game early on, was what we needed.

"A lot of times in games like that, it's a defensive play or a defensive miscue that ends up costing you the game, and I know if I'm Tommy on the mound and know those guys are making the plays, it's a lot easier for me."

The eight frames were a career-high for Milone, who didn't surpass the sixth inning in any of his five starts with the Nationals last season. Washington packaged him and three others in a trade to acquire All-Star Gio Gonzalez in the offseason, and the A's have been more than pleased with their end of the bargain so far.

"He pitched great," said batterymate Kurt Suzuki, whom Milone didn't shake off once. "Not the best command he would have liked, but he found the way. Him being a young guy able to do that at this level is awesome."

Three times Milone walked a batter and three times he surrendered a double, but the southpaw watched his teammates wipe away every baserunner. Each play proved crucial, as the A's hardly made much noise on the offensive side, their only run coming in the second courtesy of an RBI single from Josh Donaldson off Kansas City starter Luis Mendoza.

Fittingly, Donaldson played a role in a couple of the club's noteworthy plays, the first coming in the first following Jason Bourgeois' leadoff double. Lorenzo Cain sent a fly ball to right field, where Josh Reddick readied himself and quickly made the glove-to-hand transfer with ease, sailing a perfectly lined throw to third base. Donaldson, stationed at the bag as Bourgeois drew closer, snatched up the ball on one hop -- channeling his days as a catcher -- and made the tag for the out.

Perhaps of distant memory by the time the last pitch was thrown, the play's significance wasn't lost on those involved.

"That's an inning-changer," Milone said. "After that, we got rolling."

"That was a key, key play in the game, to throw out a runner of his magnitude," Melvin said. "That's a fast runner on top of it, and he was on the run when he caught the ball. You lose sight of those as the game goes along, but that's as big a play as any."

Even Bourgeois saluted Reddick, who, like Milone, came over via trade -- he was part of the Andrew Bailey deal -- and has been a steady presence for the A's.

"I tip my hat to him," the Royals speedster said. "I had to challenge him right there, trying to get in scoring position. I knew he probably had a good chance because he had time to get under the ball with his timing. But he put it right on the money."

Donaldson's slick pick finished him off, and the A's third baseman was then on the receiving end of a throw from Suzuki in the fourth, when Eric Hosmer -- who initially boarded via a walk and moved to second on Billy Butler's groundout -- was caught stealing third base. Just minutes later, Jeff Francoeur garnered a free pass from Milone and, he too, was caught stealing thanks to steady awareness by the left-hander, who picked off the outfielder.

Milone notched three outs that inning with use of just two strikes -- 10 pitches overall. His efficient performance, helped along by his teammates, resulted in just 93 pitches in front of a slim announced crowd of less than 11,000. It's likely half of that total was present.

"Even back to high school, I don't like guys getting on first base and knowing that they're going to steal," the pitcher said. "Plays like that obviously keep you in the ballgame longer, too."

A's closer Grant Balfour, relieving Milone in the ninth, tossed a scoreless frame for his second save of the season to cap an all-around well-played game by the hosts, which was much needed.

"Great effort," Suzuki said. "Everybody chipped in. We talked about it today, about doing your part, taking care of your job and trusting your teammates. If you do all that, good things will happen."

Said Donaldson: "We know we have a good defensive team, we just haven't proved it the last couple of days. We're going to hopefully go out there and continue playing like we did. I think it was very important for us. Hopefully it gives us a bit of an identity. We hope to score a lot of runs here, but if we don't we know we have our pitching and our defense to back us up."

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