After an encouraging start to an important three-game series against the Texas Rangers, Tommy Milone proceeded to give up six runs on nine hits, and the Oakland Athletics fell to their biggest threat in the division by a score of 8-3 Friday night.
The Rangers are now 2.5 games behind the A’s in the AL West, and their offense hit all the right notes as Nelson Cruz and Jurickson Profar each hit two-run home runs to go with three RBI’s from A.J. Pierzynski. The Texas bullpen shut down the A’s in the later innings to seal the win, and the Rangers have now won five in a row as Oakland has dropped three of their last five.
Milone was sharp in the opening frame, using only six pitches to retire the first two batters. Ian Kinsler was thrown out by Yoenis Cespedes at second following a line drive to left for the third out, and the A’s looked good out of the gate.
In the bottom of the first, Alexei Ogando had control issues from the start. Although he got behind in the count both times, the right-hander was able to retire the first two batters, but he followed it up by walking Jed Lowrie and Cespedes. Brandon Moss made the most of the opportunity and scored both on an opposite field drive to the left-center wall, giving the A’s an early lead with a two-out double.
The Rangers immediately answered back in the top of the second as Nelson Cruz took Milone deep following a leadoff single by Adrian Beltre. It was a turning point for the left-hander, who struggled with his pitches from that point on.
Ogando walked two batters in the bottom of the second but Oakland couldn’t capitalize, and Texas picked up where they left off in the third as Leonys Martin and Elvis Andrus led off the inning with singles. Both advanced on an pop fly to deep center field by Kinsler, and Beltre got an RBI on a groundout to short that scored Martin. In the next at-bat, A.J. Pierzynski hit a shallow line drive just past a diving Lowrie, scoring Andrus from second to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead.
The bottom of the third saw the A’s put two more men on base without scoring, and Milone gave up his second two-run shot of the night to Jurickson Profar, who pulled a low, inside fastball over the left field wall following a double by Craig Gentry to make it 6-2 in favor of Texas. Martin followed that up with a successful bunt on the first pitch of the next at-bat, and things were starting to unravel for Oakland.
That put Milone at 74 pitches, and pitching coach Curt Young came out of the dugout for a chat as Dan Otero warmed up in the bullpen. He was left out to retire Andrus on a flyout, but Otero then came in to finish off the inning, and Milone’s night was over after a mere 3.2 innings.
Crisp made it 6-3 when he hit a two-out, RBI double in the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff walk by Josh Reddick. Right fieler Nelson Cruz actually was there to make the catch near the wall, but the ball bounced off the palm of his glove, allowing Reddick to score from first.
Otero slowed down the Rangers’ offense over the next two innings, but the A’s couldn’t break through against the Rangers bullpen despite loading the bases in the bottom of the fifth. The Rangers added two more runs in the seventh on a broken bat blooper to right by Pierzynski, and that put the game out of reach as Texas rode a 8-3 lead into the ninth, and the A’s could only put two men on base over the last four innings, sealing their fate in a key divisional matchup.
They’ll get another chance tomorrow, with Jarrod Parker going up against new acquisition Matt Garza in the pitching matchup.