If anything, the veteran outfielder welcomed the move down in the order.
"I just feel more relaxed," Sweeney said, after
hitting a two-run homer to help the A's to a 5-3 win over the Toronto
Blue Jays on Friday night.
"Sometimes I may have put more pressure on myself
(batting leadoff) to get on base and make something happen. Maybe I was
trying to do too much."
Sweeney's home run highlighted a five-run second
inning against Toronto starter Scott Richmond, but the A's bullpen made
the biggest impact. Four relievers combined for 4 2-3 scoreless innings
and kept the team with the best record in the AL from mounting a
Michael Wuertz (2-1) pitched 1 2-3 innings for the
win. Russ Springer and Andrew Bailey helped him blank the Blue Jays
after starter Josh Outman was knocked from the game in the fifth
inning. Bailey worked the final two innings for his first major league
save in two tries.
"You just have to be ready to go," Wuertz said.
"You're going to have nights like this and it's the bullpen's job to
suck it up and get the job done."
Jack Hannahan and Kurt Suzuki added run-scoring
doubles for Oakland, which won for just the third time in eight games.
Rod Barajas homered for Toronto, which lost its second straight after
going 5-1 during a brief homestand.
Richmond, the AL rookie of the month for April,
allowed all five Oakland runs and lost for the first time season. The
North Vancouver, B.C., native gave up six hits in the second inning but
allowed only two baserunners after that.
By then, the damage was already done.
"I didn't make the adjustments fast enough and
compounded things a little bit," Richmond said. "When I make mistakes
you see what happens. I was still getting ahead of hitters and I kept
my pitch count down. I wasn't going to come out of the game early."
Richmond, who had not lost since Sept. 4, allowed
three or more earned runs for the first time in 11 career starts. He is
winless with a 5.27 earned-run average in two career starts against
"He had the one bad inning and we couldn't score any
more runs," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "He just made some
mistakes. It's important to shut them down after we scored three runs.
We didn't do that, but he bounced back and pitched well. One or two
more hits and we win that ball game."
Sweeney's homer to right came on the first pitch he
saw from Richmond (4-1) and drove in Matt Holiday, who singled leading
off the inning. Travis Buck later singled with two outs before
Hannahan, Orlando Cabrera and Suzuki all drove in runs with hits.
"I feel comfortable in whatever spot they put me
in," said Sweeney, who had batted leadoff in 24 of Oakland's previous
26 games before being dropped to the sixth spot in the order.
"Nothing's ever written in stone and we had a million different lineups last year, so you never know."
Toronto had taken a 3-0 lead on an RBI double by
Kevin Millar and the home run by Barajas, but couldn't get anything
going against Oakland's bullpen after Outman left with runners on first
and second with one out in the fifth.
"It's a solid bullpen," Geren said. "The unfortunate
thing is we need our starters to go deeper. We'd have won more games if
our starters had gone deeper."