Swisher homers twice as A's one-hit Giants

Swisher homers twice as A's one-hit Giants

OAKLAND -- As far as birthdays go, Jason Kendall's 31st was about as happy as they get.

The veteran catcher had a perfect day atop Oakland's order, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three RBIs, and he had the pleasure of catching one of the game's most dominant pitchers at his best.

Better still, his team beat the Giants, 16-0, closing out a three-game Interleague sweep of rival San Francisco with the biggest shutout victory in Oakland history.

"Pretty close to perfect," Kendall said.

That same sentence applied -- literally -- to right-hander Rich Harden, who didn't allow a hit until Deivi Cruz's bloop single in the fifth inning, and didn't allow another before leaving after the seventh inning.

Harden said he'd have liked to pitch the eighth in his second start since coming off the disabled list, but A's manager Ken Macha decided 76 pitches was enough. Harden threw 67 in his first start back, Tuesday in Seattle, and since his return, he's allowed one run on three hits over 12 innings.

"My goal in coming back," said Harden, "was to come back stronger than I was before."

Mission accomplished. Kendall said Harden was getting "stronger and stronger" as the day progressed, and shortstop Bobby Crosby, who tried in vain to track down Cruz's looper into shallow left field, didn't hesitate when asked if Harden had no-hit stuff.

"I thought he had no-hit stuff when I played with him in Triple-A," Crosby explained. "I've always though that if he could throw strikes, and put it where he wants it, he could be unhittable."

Posed the same question, Kendall, who has seen plenty of elite hurlers in his 10 years in the Majors, was equally effusive in praise.

"Rich is one of those guys who has ... I'm trying to think of how to say this ... special stuff," Kendall offered. "Dominant stuff, like he could say, 'Here it is,' and you still can't hit it. There's only a handful of guys in the big leagues like that, and when you get him some runs, he's going to be tough to beat."

   Rich Harden  /   P
Born: 11/30/81
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R

The A's got all the runs Harden needed when Kendall, who had walked to open the bottom of the first inning, scored on the first of Crosby's team-high four hits. It extended Crosby's hitting streak to eight games, and jump-started Oakland's biggest offensive outburst of the year.

By scoring three runs in the first, two in the second, one in the third and five in both the fourth and fifth, they set a season high in runs, and they finished with a season-high 24 hits.

Only two of those hits left the yard, and they were both off the bat of rookie Nick Swisher, who became the second player in Oakland history to homer from both sides of the plate.

The first was a two-run shot from the left side off Brandon Puffer down the left-field line in the fourth, and the second was a two-run shot to left-center field from the right side, immediately after being knocked down by an inside pitch from San Francisco reliever Jason Christiansen in the fifth.

"It was just one of those days for us," said Swisher, who tied his career high with four RBIs. "They don't happen very often. ... I'm excited, but not for me. I'm excited for the team, for the way we've been playing."

Kendall, Swisher, Mark Kotsay, Marco Scutaro and Bobby Kielty each had three hits for the A's, rookie first baseman Dan Johnson went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, and everyone in the lineup but Scott Hatteberg had at least two hits by the end of the fifth.

It's not like Hatteberg was bringing up the rear, though. He walked and scored in the fourth and banged an RBI double off the wall before scoring in the fifth.

   Jason Kendall  /   C
Born: 06/26/74
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 195 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

"I think our hitters are going to be savoring the day," manager Ken Macha said.

Particularly Kendall, but not because he ended the longest RBI drought of his career at 20 games. He wasn't even aware of the drought.

Rather, the satisfied look on his face as he rummaged through a cooler before leaving the clubhouse was the look of someone who likes what he sees when he peers around the room. The A's have won five consecutive series, eight of their past nine games, and they're within five games of .500 for the first time since May 10.

"This isn't about me," said the birthday boy. "This is about we, and we're playing good baseball. It's a nice feeling."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.