OAKLAND -- An Aug. 2 game is never going to have the same kind of intensity about it that a postseason game will, but in the case of the A's 8-3 win Saturday over the Kansas City Royals, some of that added oomph was there.
It was the first start for lefty Jon Lester in any uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox, and it was a return home for left fielder Jonny Gomes. The A's traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox on Thursday to bring those two in, the better to make a run at the postseason.
Lester threw 62/3 innings to get the win, and Gomes has two hits and two RBIs in an eight-run fifth inning.
"We all get so amped up for the first of anything," Lester said of his debut performance in and Oakland uniform. "We've done that. Now it's time to get back to work and get to the job at hand."
Or, as Gomes put it, "everyone in the house was aware that Jon Lester was in the house."
It wasn't hard to feel the buzz going through the crowd of 30,097 as they waited for their first glimpse of Lester, deemed by his peers as one of the best starters in the majors the past few years. Catcher Derek Norris said the fans as well as the A's themselves felt it.
"Any time you have a guy of his caliber that has his kind of competitive nature and emotion, it's going to rub off on some guys," Norris said. "Not just pitchers but players in general, myself included. When you see that, you want to work harder for them and lay out that extra effort to work for them. It definitely rubs off for sure.
"I don't think it's any secret that Oakland A's fans have been waiting for a star-studded guy like this to come into the organization. Usually, they're going out. They've traded guys like Lester for prospects coming in. So this is different. You could tell the fans were excited. We were, too. And I don't think he was all that sharp today. I think he felt a little rusty."
Lester had thrown eight shutout innings at the Royals two weeks ago. This time, he gave up nine hits and three runs, but he yielded only one run in the first six innings, keeping the A's close until the offense exploded against K.C. starter Jason Vargas. Lester sat for a long while with Oakland scoring eight times in the fifth, then left to a huge ovation with two outs in the seventh.
"We all know how hectic and chaotic things can get here," Lester said. "It was pretty cool to be on the other side of it, to play for people who really love the A's."
While it was the eight-run fifth that ultimately won the game for Lester, he got a huge boost in the fourth inning when center fielder Sam Fuld, acquired Thursday from the Minnesota Twins, made a running catch of a Mike Moustakas liner, then fired a strike to the plate where Norris was waiting to make the tag.
Asked about that, Fuld said the usual niceties, but he really wanted to talk about playing behind Lester.
"I can count on one hand the number of pitches that missed spots," Fuld said. "Norris barely had to move his glove."
Kansas City (James Shields 9-6) at A's (Scott Kazmir 12-3), 1:05 p.m. CSNCA
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