Eight-run seventh inning leads A's to eighth win in 10 games

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Frank Thomas is looking pretty spry these days after returning to Oakland.

The Big Hurt tripled for the first time in six years and got three hits against former teammate Jon Garland, and the Athletics took over the AL West lead from the Los Angeles Angels with a 14-2 rout of the defending division champions Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.

"That was priceless," winning pitcher Chad Gaudin said of Thomas' 12th career triple. "I played with the guy in '06, and I don't think I saw him beat out a ball -- much less go from home to third on a triple. It's uplifting. He told me a couple of days ago, 'I can run now.' And I said, 'Really.' And I'm thinking to myself, in 15 years, all of a sudden you can run now? And sure enough, he can run."

Daric Barton singled with two outs in the first and scored when Thomas hit a towering fly that landed just inside the right-field line after a long but fruitless run by Vladimir Guerrero. The Athletics' DH slid into third with his first triple since April 24, 2002, with the Chicago White Sox in a 9-2 win at Cleveland. His last one before that was Aug. 22, 1998.

"It's been a long time since one of those," Thomas said, laughing. "The way the ball was curving, I just thought it was going to be a double. But then I saw the ball get by him. I've felt better all year, so I'm running a lot better. I was happy to get it. It's something I haven't done in a long time, so it was fun."

Everything is fun again for the 19-year veteran, who began the season with Toronto and was upset when manager John Gibbons reduced his playing time. Thomas asked out and got his wish. The Athletics were more than happy to get him back.

"It just feels good to be back playing," Thomas said. "I don't have any hard feelings about anything. It was a bad fit over there and it didn't work out, so I'm just happy to be able to come back here and fit in. This is a good situation for me.

"I saw this team earlier in the year when they swept us and I saw how talented they were," the five-time All-Star added. "I saw the good left-handed bats, the great defense and great young pitching. So when all this went down in Toronto, this was the first place I was trying to go to because I still had so many friends on this team. It was an easy transition. Business took me away, and business brought me back."

Barton hit a three-run homer and Jack Hannahan and Emil Brown also homered for the Athletics, who have won eight of 10. They came into this series with just 12 home runs through their first 26 games.

Gaudin (3-1) breezed to his third straight victory, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and five hits over six innings with four strikeouts. The right-hander was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his previous four starts against the Angels, but had a career-high 11 strikeouts the last time he faced them on Sept. 30 at Oakland.

Garland (3-3) allowed seven runs, 10 hits and three walks in six-plus innings, striking out five. The right-hander is 0-5 in his last seven starts against Oakland, and 3-9 with a 5.01 ERA in 14 career starts against the A's.

"I was getting behind and they were hitting the ball. That's all I can say," Garland said. "I felt I had pretty good pitches. The ball was put in play and it rolled their way."

The Athletics grabbed a 4-1 lead in the third with Barton's first homer of the season, a drive into the first row above the 18-foot fence in right field.

Garland then walked Thomas and got a visit from pitching coach Mike Butcher, who was ejected by plate umpire Charlie Relaford over something he said to him on the way back to the dugout.

"I think he was protecting me," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I asked him a question and he jumped all over me. He called some pitches in the game that were strikes, and then he didn't call others that were in the same place. I just wanted to know for myself. Maybe he was having a bad day."

It was Relaford's first game back from vacation, which he had to cut short due to the frightening injury that crew member Kerwin Danley sustained to his jaw at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. Danley was struck on the mask by a 96 mph pitch from the Dodgers' Brad Penny, which batterymate Russell Martin wasn't quick enough to catch because he was expecting a curveball.

Relaford was shaken up briefly by a foul tip into his mask by Bobby Crosby in the seventh -- but stayed in the game.

Oakland broke it open with an eight-run seventh that extended the lead to 14-2. The A's used two pinch-runners that inning, Chris Denorfia and Rajai Davis -- both of whom had hits off Chris Bootcheck to drive in runs.

Brown greeted Bootcheck with a two-run shot in the seventh after Thomas chased Garland with a leadoff double that made him 8-for-12 lifetime against his former White Sox teammate. Ryan Sweeney added a two-run single, Denorfia added a run-scoring infield hit, Brown drew a bases-loaded walk and Davis capped the rally with a two-run single.

Game notes
The Angels and Athletics have each won three of the last six AL West titles. ... The Angels recalled INF Brandon Wood and C Bobby Wilson from Triple-A Salt Lake while optioning RHP Rich Thompson and RHP Jose Arrendondo to their Pacific Coast League club.