OAKLAND, Calif. -- Coco Crisp knew he needed a home run to complete the cycle. The Oakland Athletics' center fielder also knew it wasn't likely to happen.
He was right, though it didn't slow down the A's any.Crisp had three hits and Ben Sheets won for the first time in more than a month to help Oakland beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 14-4 on Friday night."I can't be trying to hit a home run at the end, that's not going to happen," Crisp said with a laugh. "I'm not a home run hitter, I just run into them every now and then. It would have been nice to hit the home run early and only have a single left. That would have been more in my favor than the way it happened tonight."Crisp singled, doubled and tripled in his third game since coming off the disabled list earlier this week. He just missed becoming the seventh player in Oakland history to hit for the cycle after flying out, walking and grounding out in his final three plate appearances.More importantly, his presence at the top of the lineup provided a huge spark for an Oakland offense that has sputtered for most of June.Coming off a three-game sweep by Cincinnati, the A's had 17 hits and a season-high for runs. Every starter except Rajai Davis had at least one hit while eight players drove in at least one run."He sets our offense up is what he does," Sheets said of Crisp, who has missed 71 games this season during two separate trips on the DL. "He gives us a true leadoff hitter. There's a reason they went and got him. To be missing somebody like that is a pretty tough hit."The Pirates took a significant blow in the seventh inning when second baseman Neil Walker was nearly knocked unconscious after getting hit in the back of the head by teammate Ryan Church's knee. Walker, who homered and needed a triple for the cycle, remained face down on the turf for several minutes. He was eventually helped to his feet and left the field under his own power before being taken to Alta Bates Summitt Medical Center for tests."He got banged in the head pretty good," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "But he got up and that's a good sign. I think the initial shock got him. He got up and didn't feel nauseous so we're hoping for the best."Sheets (3-7) hasn't received much run support in his first season in Oakland.Sheets, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the A's in the offseason, scattered eight hits over six innings and had a season-high nine strikeouts to end his personal eight-game losing streak.The right-hander labored through a 13-minute first inning when he gave up three straight hits and two runs, then allowed single runs in the third and fifth. Sheets, who hadn't won since beating Tampa Bay 4-2 on May 8, retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced before giving way to the bullpen.Crisp, who singled in the first and doubled in the second, hit a leadoff triple in the fourth and scored on Daric Barton's sacrifice fly to break a 4-4 tie. He also walked and scored as part of Oakland's seven-run seventh inning when the A's sent 11 men to the plate."The collective effort is what we need for this ballclub to win games," Crisp said. "We're not the Red Sox or Yankees with the home run statistics like they put up so we have to do what we did today."Cliff Pennington singled three times and had three RBIs while Ryan Sweeney added three hits and scored three times for Oakland, which improved to 7-0 against Pittsburgh in interleague play.Brad Lincoln (0-2) gave up five runs in six innings for the Pirates, who have lost 15 consecutive road games and 22 of 27 overall.Before getting hurt, Walker, a rookie, doubled and scored in the first, singled in the third, then homered off Sheets with one out in the fifth.Both teams struggled with their defense early.Davis tried to backhand Andrew McCutchen's double to left in the first inning, allowing the ball to skip past him and roll to the fence as Walker scored. One batter later, first baseman Daric Barton allowed Ryan Doumit's sharp grounder to skip between his legs for an error while McCutchen scored.Pittsburgh's defense cost Lincoln two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning.Walker fumbled Sweeney's two-out grounder, allowing Crisp to score, and Jack Cust followed with an RBI single that McCutchen, the Pirates center fielder, appeared to make a diving catch of before the ball squirted out of his glove.
The A's had scored one run or less in seven of Sheets' previous 15 starts. ... Oakland, which led the AL West by one game on May 31, is 10 games behind first-place Texas.