Tommy Milone was cruising along, looking like the man of the hour on Friday night. Instead, Grant Balfour was the man to notch a nifty little personal moment.

When Milone unraveled a bit in the ninth, Balfour came in and tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley's team record for consecutive saves.

For eight innings, Milone glided through the Royals' lineup with ease, allowing only two hits and throwing 85 pitches. The second-year starter then allowed four hits and three runs in the ninth, but with Balfour nailing things down, the A's topped the Royals 6-3. Oakland is a season-high 15 games over .500, at 51-36.

Balfour, who has converted each of his past 40 save opportunities, allowed an RBI single by Salvador Perez, the first batter he faced, then got two groundouts. He is 22-for-22 in save chances this season and is likely to be named to the American League All-Star team on Saturday.

"Phenomenal," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the 40-save roll. "Like him, I don't like to talk about it a lot, but it's pretty phenomenal. (Eckersley) was quite the pitcher."

Balfour dislikes discussing the streak, but he was happy to talk about his admiration for Eckersley.

"I look up and see his name and number (43) every day when we take the field," Balfour said of the A's retired numbers. "And you know all those names. They are all greats."

Balfour said that Eckersley "obviously had a great career. ... If I have half the career he had, I'd be a happy man."

Milone, who was trying to throw his first career shutout, worked 8 1/3 innings; his previous high for innings pitched this season was seven. He did not walk a batter and struck out four, and afterward, Milone said he told catcher John Jaso that Jaso had "magic fingers the first eight innings." He didn't shake Jaso off at all, and he felt as if he was throwing quality strikes with all his pitches.