OAKLAND -- There was pure joy on Nate Freiman's face Monday night, but this bliss was also tempered by pauses induced from much different feelings.
His first Major League home run ball sitting nearby in his locker, hit into the left-field bleachers at the Coliseum just hours earlier in an 11-2 A's win over the Astros, Freiman deemed the day "bittersweet."
For it was earlier in the afternoon when he learned from relatives stationed in Wellesley, Mass., just west of Boston, of the horrific bombing scene at the finish line of the city's annual marathon that killed at least three and injured more than a hundred others.
"For me, this is a dream come true," said Freidman, his thoughts suddenly shifting. "A lot of my family is back there, and it was a nightmare. So you know what? It's an amazing feeling today, but we're not going to forget about what happened there."
Surely there was a different tone to Monday's game between the two American League West opponents, and not just because the A's separated themselves by six runs in the first inning on a cold and windy night that drew a sparse crowd.
"You want to be able to go about your everyday life," manager Bob Melvin said before the game, "but you can't help but think about what did happen and feel for those people in Boston."
That's where the A's will be next week for a matchup with the Red Sox. In the meantime, they will try to keep their focus on the club they've beaten four times in as many tries this season.
Oakland needed only the first inning to walk all over Houston again on this night.
The A's managed just two hits in the opening frame, but were awarded five free passes in a lengthy six-run inning that helped snap the club's two-game losing streak.
Lefty starter Erik Bedard walked his first three batters, finding his form for all of one out by striking out Jed Lowrie before tossing a wild pitch wide and high of catcher Jason Castro to bring in a run. With first base subsequently open, Bedard reloaded it by walking Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss made him pay with an ensuing two-run base hit for a three-run A's lead.
If only Bedard's night ended there. The southpaw instead remained on the mound to face Freiman, who greeted his former teammate with a three-run shot to left field.
"He's produced for us, and it's in limited action, which is really difficult for a younger player," Melvin said. "He works really hard. It's awfully rewarding to see a guy come up with a big hit like that, and against a former club too. To get his first home run and it be the big blow of the game really, I'm sure he'll go home with a smile on his face tonight."
With one out, four walks, 35 pitches and six runs in the books, Bedard headed off the field, as righty Paul Clemens was brought in from the bullpen. He, too, walked a batter, but ultimately escaped the inning without creating any more damage.
The A's would wait to do more of that in later innings, with Lowrie collecting a pair of two-RBI hits in both the seventh and eighth, in the meantime letting Tommy Milone go to work.
Oakland's undefeated southpaw, whose winning streak dates back to Sept. 9, limited the Astros to two runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and no walks through 6 2/3 impressive innings, marking the 23rd time in 34 tries since he began his tenure with the A's last year that Milone has completed at least six.
"Everything was working," Milone said. "I felt like no matter what pitch was put down, I was able to throw it for a strike. I feel like, especially after the first inning, I was able to pound the zone and get them out of there early and keep the team in the game."
"You pretty much know what you're going to get out of Tommy every time he goes out there," Melvin said. "He's not going to beat himself. He's going to make his defenders work. He works quick, he knows what he wants to do and has conviction in what he's doing."