ATLANTA — The Oakland Athletics finally got some much-needed offense.
Jack Cust hit a solo home run and Ryan Sweeney added a three-run shot, and the Oakland Athletics held on to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 on Saturday night to end a season-worst four-game losing streak.
The A’s had only three extra-base hits — all doubles — during their losing streak and had scored only four runs. They entered the game with 22 home runs, third fewest in the majors.
Oakland broke out unexpectedly with Sweeney hitting his first homer. It came off Tim Hudson, who had allowed only one all season prior to Saturday night.
“I didn’t know that. That makes it even better,” Sweeney said.
“The three-run homer was kind of the backbreaker right there,” Hudson said.
Rich Harden (2-0) pitched seven strong innings in ending Atlanta’s eight-game home winning streak. The right-hander allowed four hits, one earned run, walked one and struck out eight.
The Braves rallied from a 5-1 deficit with three runs in the ninth off Huston Street.
Jeff Francoeur had a run-scoring groundout, Kelly Johnson an RBI triple and Gregor Blanco a sacrifice fly before Street struck out Greg Norton to end the rally.
Cust hit his fifth homer in the opening inning and Sweeney hit his just inside the right field pole off Hudson (6-3). The right-hander had been 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA at home entering the game.
“I thought it might go foul,” Sweeney said. “I wasn’t trying to hit a home run in that situation, but it was good to put some runs on the board early. It’s a big plus.”
Harden, making only his fourth start of the season and second since spending five weeks on the DL with a strained right shoulder, threw 102 pitches, 72 strikes and was ahead in the count on most hitters with a fastball clocked between 93 and 96 mph.
“Great,” he said when asked about the shoulder. “I felt pretty good. My first game back (Sunday at Texas, he gave up eight hits and five runs in 3 2-3 innings) it felt good. I got ahead of a lot of their hitters but threw too many pitches they could hit. Tonight, I focused on making them chase pitches when I got ahead and it worked better.”
He pitched in only seven games last season because of his shoulder problem and was 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s been on the DL six times in the past four years, pitching in only 42 games with a 17-7 record.
“It was really kind of a normal game for him. He had a mid 90s fastball and compliments that with a great change. He’s tough to hit,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “We didn’t want him to throw much more than 100 pitches. We’re kind of taking it one game at a time.”
A healthy Harden is usually difficult to hit.