In typical Texas fashion, there was offense aplenty in Monday night’s contest between two familiar AL West foes, and the Texas Rangers outslugged the Oakland Athletics to earn an 8-7 victory, with Nelson Cruz hitting two home runs in the series opener.
Starting pitcher Dan Straily gave up six earned runs on eight hits — two of them home runs that counted for three scores, and he lasted only 4.2 innings, his shortest outing since he faced the Rangers at the Coliseum on May 15.
Jesse Chavez took the loss, and he gave up the go-ahead runs on a towering shot by Cruz in the bottom of the fifth that saw the A’s lose the lead after breaking out for six runs in the fourth.
It was evident early on that there wasn’t much chance for a pitcher’s duel.
Straily needed only seven pitches to get through the first, but in the second A.J. Pierzynski belted a first-pitch homer off of the right field foul pole following an Adrian Beltre single to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Jed Lowrie got the first hit against rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch when he led off the third inning with a single to center field, but he’d stay there as the next three A’s batter were retired.
Texas mad it 3-0 in the bottom of the frame when Ian Kinsler hit an RBI single to left, bringing home Leonys Martin from second.
Then came the fourth inning, which saw Oakland score four runs before the first out. John Jaso led things off with a double to right field, and Yoenis Cespedes hit a shot at Beltre that ricocheted off the third basemen and into the glove of shortstop Elvis Andrus. Andrus went to third as Jaso was trying to advance, but Beltre didn’t apply the tag according to third base umpire Jordan Baker, and that put runners at the corners with no outs.
In the next at-bat, Brandon Moss smacked a single to the right field corner to make it 3-1, and after Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases, Seth Smith tied the game on a ground ball through the gap into right field.
With two men on and still no outs, Lowrie swung on a low curveball and drove it down the right field line, ending up at second with an RBI double to give Oakland a 4-3 lead. Tepesch finally got the first out of the inning when Josh Reddick grounded out to second, but Eric Sogard tacked on another run on sacrifice fly to center field to make it 5-3.
Once Coco Crisp scored Lowrie by pulling a changeup to shallow right field, Ron Washington had seen enough, and Jaso grounded out against reliever Neal Cotts in his second at-bat of the inning to put an end to the offensive showing with the A’s ahead 6-3.
Unfortunately, holding the lead would prove to be difficult. Straily delivered a lazy slider in the bottom of the fourth to Cruz, and he paid for it when the slugger drove it over the wall in left-center to make it 6-4.
Texas wasn’t done there, however. After Andrus popped out to lead off the fifth, Ian Kinsler got aboard with a single that turned into extra bases when Reddick couldn’t field the ball cleanly. After Beltre was retired for the first out, Kinsler moved to third on a wild pitch, and Pierzynski brought Texas within a run when he lined a fastball just beyond the reach of Reddick at the base of the right field wall to give him his third RBI of the night.
Bob Melvin went to the bullpen after the second out, and after getting Cruz to foul off the first two pitches, Chavez gave him a gift of a pitch up over the plate that was taken deep to straightaway center field, giving the Rangers a 7-6 lead in backbreaking fashion.
Oakland would never recover. The offense stalled out against Cotts, and Texas added an insurance run courtesy of — who else — Nelson Cruz, giving him his fourth RBI of the night when he hit a double following a single by Beltre against Chavez and a walk to Pierzynski by reliever Jerry Blevins.
The A’s nearly came back in the ninth, with Smith leading off with a double and Lowrie drawing a walk to give Oakland some hope. After a strikeout by Reddick, Chris Young came in to pinch hit and hit a short line drive that Martin couldn’t handle in center field.
With the bases loaded, Crisp got a ball deep enough in left field to score Smith from third to make it 8-7, but Derek Norris popped out in the next at-bat to end the game.
The victory puts Texas two games behind the A’s in the AL West standings. The win snaps the Rangers’ six-game losing streak, during which they never scored more than two runs. Jarrod Parker will take the mound tomorrow against Yu Darvish in the second game of the series.