Daric Barton ended a career-worst homerless drought of 76 games with a solo shot against Dan Haren and Coco Crisp drove in the go-ahead run with an eighth-inning single, triggering a four-run rally that carried the Oakland Athletics to a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
The Athletics got a one-out single from Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes and a two-out bunt hit from Kurt Suzuki in the seventh before manager Mike Scioscia brought in left-hander Scott Downs to face the left-swinging Barton — leaving Haren with a bewildered look on his face.
The move turned out perfectly, as Barton took a called third strike at the knees. But Kevin Jepsen (0-1) gave up a pair of one-out walks, Crisp's clutch single and a run-scoring ground-rule double by Josh Reddick that put Oakland ahead 3-2. Cespedes greeted David Carpenter with a two-run single to cap the rally.
Brian Fuentes (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the victory and Grant Balfour got his third save in as many attempts despite giving up a one-out homer in the ninth by Vernon Wells.
Haren allowed five hits and no walks in 6 2-3 innings after failing to get through six in either of his first two starts. The only run against the three-time All-Star right-hander came in the fifth on Barton's home run.
Albert Pujols' season-opening home run drought reached 11 games and 45 at-bats. The only other time in his 12-year career that the three-time NL MVP went more than five games before hitting his first homer was 2009, when it took Pujols nine games and 28 at-bats to do it. Pujols is the only player in Major League history to hit 30-or-more home runs in each of his first 11 seasons.
Oakland's Tyson Ross allowed two runs, seven hits and no walks over six innings and struck out three in his season debut after getting recalled from the minors. The right-hander, who turns 25 years old on Sunday, got his chance with the Athletics in need of a fifth starter for the first time season.
Barton, who began the season on the disabled list because of a right shoulder strain, drove an 0-1 pitch into the lower seats in the right field corner with two out in the fifth to open the scoring. It was his first home run since Oct. 1, 2010, when he hit two against Seattle's Luke French at Safeco Field.
One pitch later, center fielder Peter Bourjos made a leaping grab above the fence to rob Josh Donaldson of what would have been his second big league homer.
Bourjos tied the score 1-all in the bottom half with a run-scoring groundout and Torii Hunter gave the Angels a 2-1 lead with an RBI single in the sixth.
Notes: The A's optioned RHP Andrew and OF Collin Cowgill to clear roster spots for Ross and RHP Neil Wagner, who were recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. Ross was the team's final cut in spring training. ... Pujols is homerless in 40 career at-bats against Oakland. ... Only a sacrifice fly by Crisp in the final meeting of last season between the A's and Angels prevented Downs from finishing with a perfect 0.00 ERA at home. ... The A's had scored in only one of their previous 31 innings before Barton's homer. ... The A's have failed to reach double digits in hits in any of their first 12 games, the longest such streak from the start of a season since the franchise relocated from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. ... Fuentes, the former Angels closer, has been looking for his 200th career save since June 19, 2011, when he closed out a 2-1 win against San Francisco. He has pitched in the ninth inning four times since then, but not in a save situation.