The Oakland Athletics smacked around their division rival Texas Rangers Wednesday afternoon, with Brandon Moss, Daric Barton, Josh Donaldson and Coco Crisp each hitting home runs to put the finishing touches on a series win over the Texas Rangers with a 11-4 victory.
The A’s are now tied with the Rangers atop the AL West, and the win left little doubt as to whether the team’s resurgence over the past week and a half was a fluke or a sign of big things to come heading into the final month of the regular season.
This game told the story of two starting pitchers heading in opposite directions, but in the end it didn’t matter who the Rangers put on the mound, as six of the A’s runs came against the Texas bullpen.
Jarrod Parker continued a successful stretch by pitching six strong innings with four strikeouts and no walks. The A’s have won seven of the right-hander’s last eight starts.
Yu Darvish didn’t fare so well, tying a career-high with six walks and throwing 100 pitches before getting knocked out of the game in a big sixth inning from Oakland’s hitters. The Rangers have lost his last four starts.
The sixth would turn out to be the most productive frame for the A’s, and the first six batters crossed the plate before Texas reliever Joseph Ortiz was able to get three straight outs to stop the bleeding. Darvish was knocked out of the game following his sixth walk and the second home run of the game to start off the inning, a shot to center field by Barton that made it 5-2.
Next, Robbie Ross came in out of the bullpen and gave up a single to Eric Sogard and a double by Stephen Vogt, and Crisp got his second RBI of the day on a single to center field in the next at-bat. Donaldson followed it up by putting a slider deep in the left field stands to give the A’s a 9-3 Oakland advantage, and Ortiz had to come in to put an end to the scoring barrage.
The tone was set early on in the game, as the A’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a shot to right-center field by Moss. It was the 26th home run of the year by Moss, and this one came after Darvish gave up a two-out walk to Jed Lowrie. He issued a four-pitch walk to Yoenis Cespedes before striking out Alberto Callaspo to end the inning, and it was an early indicator of how his day would go.
Parker rolled through the second, getting his second and third strikeouts of the day in a quality shutdown inning. Darvish continued to struggle with his control in the bottom half of the inning, walking Barton and Sogard before catcher A.J. Pierzynski came out for a chat.
That didn’t sit too well with the right-hander, and the teammates had an animated exchange before play resumed. Once it did, Vogt lined out to right but advanced Barton to third, and Crisp would bring him home on a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat to make it 3-0 in Oakland’s favor. Sogard was thrown out with Donaldson at the plate for the third out, but it was good to see the A’s capitalize on the scoring opportunity after they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position Tuesday night.
With Darvish struggling, the pressure was on the Rangers hitters to produce, and the third inning saw them break through for two runs on a RBI double by Leonys Martin and a RBI single by Craig Gentry.
The pace slowed a bit as far as the scoring over the next few innings, but Parker was fortunate to get out of a jam in the top of the fifth that could’ve served as a catalyst for Texas. Jurickson Profar led off the charge with a single, and Jim Adduci reached on an error by Lowrie to put two men on with no outs.
Martin moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt, but Parker was able to field a hit by Gentry and go home to prevent the tying run from scoring in the next at-bat, and Ian Kinsler grounded out to third to end the inning without a score for the Rangers.
Then came the big sixth inning for the A’s, and that effectively put the game away as Texas found themselves in a seven-run hole, and Bob Melvin took that as a cue to give Parker some rest, putting Brett Anderson into a low-pressure situation to work the seventh.
Initially that move didn’t work out so well, with the right-hander giving up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Jeff Baker and a single to Profar that put runners at the corners for pinch-hitter Joey Butler, who got his first Major League RBI with a line drive to right to make it 9-3.
After a brief talking to by pitching coach Curt Young, Anderson got Martin to ground into a 6-4-3 double play, and Gentry grounded out to short to bring an abrupt end to a promising rally for the Rangers.
Crisp added a two-run shot off of Cory Burns in the eighth to make it 11-3, and Anderson stayed in to pitch the final two innings, giving up only one more hit – albeit a solo home run to Profar in the top of the ninth – to get a nice few innings of work in as he continues to slowly regain his form since coming off the disabled list.
The A’s will play their next seven games against the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins, while the Rangers have to take on the streaking Los Angeles Angels and the NL Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates.
It should be another interesting September in the AL West, which is proving to be the most exciting divisional race in baseball for the second year in a row.