Johnson hit a grand slam in his first official at-bat back from
the minors and the Oakland Athletics gave Penn a rude welcome in
his first major league start of the year, scoring nine runs in the
first inning of a 10-1 victory Sunday over the Baltimore Orioles.
"I feel completely different in the box than when I left,"
Johnson said. "I feel like I'm up there to attack the ball and go
after it and do some damage rather than having the bat on the
shoulder and being really patient."
Johnson knows there's a fine line between patience and
defensiveness and believes he crossed it during his early season
struggles. Johnson started 67 of the 88 games before the All-Star
break but was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento because of his .237
He tried to regain his aggressiveness in the minors and manager
Ken Macha pulled him aside before the game to praise him for
swinging at the first pitch on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly Saturday
in his first plate appearance back. Johnson's grand slam also came
on the first pitch.
"I've always tried to be a patient hitter and try to get into
the counts where I could be aggressive," he said. "I kind of lost
that aggressiveness and instead of going up to the plate to attack
the ball, I was more up there being defensive and trying to get
into a good count."
The grand slam was the key blow in the nine-run inning,
Oakland's biggest since also scoring nine in the first against
Texas on Sept. 30, 2000.
Penn's first trip to the majors this season was cut short in May
when he underwent an emergency appendectomy just before he was
scheduled to start against Seattle. He couldn't make it out of the
first inning when he got his second chance, allowing eight runs.
"It was a rough debut," Penn said. "It's been one of those
years so far. Hopefully I'll get it turned around and get it
Mark Ellis and Eric Chavez also homered for Oakland, and Esteban
Loaiza (9-7) pitched eight strong innings to win his fifth straight
decision for the A's, who have won 23 of 29 to take control of the
AL West. Oakland has a 7½-game lead over Los Angeles, after the
Angels won 2-1 at Detroit on Sunday night.
Jason Kendall, Ellis and Jay Payton opened the first with
consecutive singles to load the bases. Penn recovered to retire
Frank Thomas on a popout, but couldn't handle Chavez's comebacker
that deflected off his glove for an run-scoring infield hit.
Johnson's second career grand slam made it 5-1. Things got worse
after that for Penn (0-1). He allowed a double to Nick Swisher and
then a two-out RBI triple to Marco Scutaro. He was replaced by Russ
Ortiz after Kendall hit an RBI single for his second hit of the
"You never want to see anyone struggle like that and get off to
a bad start," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We'll see how
Ellis greeted Ortiz with his 11th homer of the season to cap the
inning. Penn, who made eight starts in the majors last year, has a
108.00 ERA after one start this season.
The big inning proved to be more than enough for Loaiza, who won
despite having his string of 28 2-3 consecutive innings without
allowing an earned run snapped in the first inning.
Loaiza gave up an RBI double to Miguel Tejada and nothing else
as he continued his strong pitching of late. Loaiza allowed one run
and eight hits to improve to 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his last six
He said his fastball is about 10 mph faster than it was when he
battled through injuries early in the season.
"My velocity is back," he said. "In April, May and June, my
fastball was 86, 85. Now it's 94, 93 and sometimes 95. It's an
The A's took two of three and haven't lost a series since
dropping two of three to Boston on July 24-26. They have won 10
series and tied one since. ... Baltimore has allowed a major
league-high 185 homers, including a franchise-record 11 grand slams