After a big win in the series opener to tie the Texas Rangers in the division standings, the Oakland Athletics lost to the familiar foe by a score of 5-1 Tuesday night to fall one game back in the AL West.
Bartolo Colon took the loss for the A’s, and he was able to get out of a few jams and accumulate three strikeouts before surrendering four runs in his final two innings on the hill. The 40-year-0ld threw 83 pitches in his second start since a stint on the 15-day disabled list.
While the right-hander has certainly been better this season, the offense was the missing ingredient in this one, and Rangers rookie starter Martin Perez never allowed the A’s to get into a groove at the plate. The southpaw pitched seven innings, mixing in his off-speed pitches with a mid-90′s fastball to keep Oakland’s hitters off balance. It was the 22-year-old’s sixth win in a row, and it was his first start agains the A’s this season.
Texas didn’t waste any time getting going on offense. The Rangers were able to make contact against Colon in the first, but he recovered to strand runners at the corners and get out of the inning without allowing a run.
Coco Crisp continued his hot streak at the plate with a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning, and after moving to third on a pop fly to center by Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie pulled a ball deep enough to right to allow him to score, and the A’s had an early 1-0 lead.
Colon came through with a shutdown inning in the second, but Texas threatened again in the third. David Murphy and Craig Gentry both hit consecutive singles to set up a dangerous situation with the Rangers top rookie Jurickson Profar coming up to bat. The 20-year-old laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, but Colon struck out Ian Kinsler and got Adrian Beltre to ground out to third to get out of the jam.
Oakland had a chance to add to their lead in the bottom of the third after Josh Donaldson got into scoring position with a one-out double. After Lowrie popped out to right, Yoenis Cespedes hit a ball to Profar’s right at short, and he made a great diving play to field the ball but was unable to make a throw to first. Donaldson, however, rounded third and never looked back, and Profar’s throw home arrived with plenty of time for A.J. Pierzynski to brace for a collision and apply the tag to end the inning.
Colon looked like he’d easily get through the fourth when he needed only seven pitches to retire Pierzynski and Alex Rios, but Mitch Moreland connected for a solo shot to right to tie the game, 1-1. It was Moreland’s fifth home run of the year at the Coliseum, which tied an A’s record for most home runs allowed by a single opponent in a single season.
The Rangers would take the lead in the fifth when they touched up Colon for three runs and knocked him out of the game after 83 pitches. After getting leadoff batter David Murphy to fly out to left for the first out, Colon couldn’t get his glove on a comebacker off the bat of Gentry, allowing the center fielder to reach on what was officially ruled as a fielding error.
Next, Profar got the RBI that had eluded Texas so often in the series up to that point, and his drive to the right field corner resulted in a double that gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead. In the next at-bat, Kinsler hit another grounder back to Colon, and this time it missed his glove and hit his throwing hand, putting a scare into Oakland’s training staff. Colon was fine, but the play put runners on the corners for Beltre.
Kinsler stole second during his teammates’ at-bat, and while Beltre grounded out to third Profar was able to score to make it 3-1. Then Colon delivered an inside fastball to Pierzynski, and the No. 5 hitter was able to drop it in for an RBI single just beyond the reach of Alberto Callaspo in shallow center field before the inning ended with a sliding catch by Michael Choice in right.
Oakland’s offense couldn’t get much traction against Perez. They were able to scrape together nine hits against the left-hander, but they’d never put more than one baserunner on at a time. Michael Choice, playing in his second Major League game (and his first as a position player, starting in right field after DH’ing yesterday), got his first career hit on an infield single with one-out in the fifth. Unfortunately he wouldn’t get to score his first career run, with Crisp and Donaldson striking out to end the inning.
Colon came out in the sixth with Jerry Blevins relieving him out of the bullpen. Donaldson gave the fans something to cheer about in the inning when he made a fantastic catch in foul territory, one that quickly set Twitter abuzz with talk of it being the catch of the year. The third baseman tracked down a pop fly off the bat of David Murphy and dove over the infield tarp to make the play, catching the ball in between the field barrier and the tarp for an outstanding play. It was reminiscent of Derek Jeter’s diving play into the stands as far as the effort and the execution, and it may be more impressive considering he had to dive into the obstacle to even have a chance at the ball.
Still, the feel-good moment dissipated as the reality set in that the A’s weren’t going to come up with the win that would’ve put them in sole possession of first place in division. Jesse Chavez came in to get the final out of the inning, and he stayed in for the seventh, giving up a single to Profar before retiring the next three Texas batters.
Chris Young singled to lead off the bottom of the inning, but none of his teammates could follow it up with a hit of their own, and Perez got his fifth strikeout of the game in his final frame on the mound to shut the door on another Oakland opportunity.
At that point the Rangers’ three-run advantage looked like it’d be enough to get the win, but Rios added a solo shot off of Chavez to start off the eighth for good measure.
They could’ve added more against some new additions to the bullpen. Bob Melvin brought in Pedro Figueroa for his season debut to finish out the eighth, and he had a rough go of it, giving up a double to Moreland and a walk to Jeff Baker before Melvin brought in Evan Scribner to face pinch-hitter Joey Butler.
Ron Washington brought in former the well-traveled Adam Rosales to pinch hit after the pitching change, and the former Athletic popped out to center field in his only at-bat of the game. Scribner would get Gentry to do the same, but he walked Profar to load the bases before getting Kinsler to line out to right to get out of the jam.
Donaldson led off the eighth with a double off of reliever Tanner Scheppers, but once again there was no secondary hit to take advantage of the scoring opportunity.
Scribner allowed two baserunners on in the top of the ninth with two outs before striking out pinch-hitter Jim Adduci to give the A’s one last chance at the plate. Callaspo would lead off the charge with a single off the foot of Rangers closer Joe Nathan, and Young worked the count full after falling behind 0-2. Umpire Chris Guccione called a slider at his ankles as a strike, however, and it was a big first out for Nathan, especially since pinch-hitter Seth Smith singled to right in the next at-bat.
Eric Sogard came in to pinch hit for Choice and bunted the runners over for the second out, and Crisp struck out in the final at-bat to seal the win for the Rangers.
Yu Darvish will be on the mound for tomorrow’s rubber match against Jarrod Parker for the A’s, and it’ll be a 12:35 PST start for what is obviously a very important game with big implications for the playoffs.