PITTSBURGH — The Oakland Athletics began a three-game series in Pittsburgh by essentially doing whatever they could to give away what became a 15th straight road loss.
The fundamentals manager Mark Kotsay keeps telling his players they need to be great at were lacking. Yet, rather than have one missed opportunity bleed into another, the A's responded by doing something that's been almost historically rare during the first two months of the season.
They won. Twice.
Ryan Noda homered and reached base four times and Hogan Harris took advantage of a massive first inning by his teammates oN Wednesday to earn his first major league victory, 9-5 over Pittsburgh.
Less than 18 hours after winning on the road for the first time in a month, Oakland jumped on Roansy Contreras (3-5) early to capture a series for just the third time in 2023.
“Monday night was not great by any measure,” Kotsay said. “And for them to understand that, to realize and recognize it and come out and be better on Tuesday and again on Wednesday shows signs of ... resiliency.”
Oakland's first seven batters reached against Contreras (3-5). All seven scored to give Harris (1-0) a massive cushion before he threw a pitch. Harris stayed warm in the dugout during the 30-minute top of the first by throwing a weighted ball against a wall.
The 26-year-old then navigated five innings for his first major-league victory and was greeted by a traditional beer shower in the locker room afterward as “Message In a Bottle” — with the signature phrase “sending out an SOS to the world” — blared on speakers that have typically been silent during postgame as the losses piled up.
“The ‘dirty shower' (or) whatever you want to call it was definitely very cool,” Harris said after earning just the fourth win by an Oakland starter this season. “It's something I’m happy with. For the most part, I think I only have to live once, but it was a moment I definitely won’t ever forget, that’s for sure.”
Seth Brown had three of the A's season-high tying 17 hits. Jace Peterson followed up a five-hit night with two more hits, including a two-run double that helped break things open in the first.
While the A's (14-50) are off to one of the worst starts in major-league history, they have tried to remain upbeat. And there may be slivers of hope. Oakland took two of three from powerful Atlanta to end May and after getting swept in Miami to start June, came to Pittsburgh and found a way to cool off the Pirates.
“We've just got to keep building,” said Noda, who walked twice in the first, singled in the third and added a solo home run in the seventh. “I said that after the Braves series. And you know, we've took two of the last three series. So we've just got to keep going, you know, keep building off this, keep pulling for each other.”
Rodolfo Castro homered and drove in three runs for Pittsburgh, which followed up a three-game sweep of NL Central rival St. Louis by dropping a series to a club on pace to finish 35-127.
Ke'Bryan Hayes had three hits and is hitting .482 (14 of 29) over his last seven games but grounded out with the bases loaded in the ninth while representing the tying run. Andrew McCutchen singled in the seventh for his 1,998th hit.
The A's wasted little time getting to Contreras, a 23-year-old the Pirates have long viewed as an important part of rebuilding.
It may be time to tweak the plan. By the time the smoke cleared in the first, Oakland was up by seven and Contreras' day was over after his ERA ballooned from 4.82 to 5.91 in the span of 38 pitches.
“It’s been tough this year to find myself on the mound, but I’m going to continue to work hard to do that and find myself,” Contreras said.
Contreras could head to the bullpen, where he made a brief appearance last month before an injury to Vince Velasquez pushed him back into the rotation. Contreras has an 8.16 ERA in his last six appearances, way off the 3.79 ERA he posted in 21 games (18 starts) in 2022.
Athletics: Make the final stop on a nine-game, three-city trip in Milwaukee. Luis Medina (0-5, 8.19 ERA) faces Adrian Houser (2-1, 3.45) on Friday.
Pirates: Finish up a season-long nine-game homestand with a weekend series against the New York Mets. Rich Hill (5-5, 4.41 ERA) will look for his second straight victory in the opener opposite New York's Tylor Megill (5-3, 4.40).