Not mailing it in: A’s sweep the Rangers behind resurgent Cotton

 

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Oakland Athletics pitcher Jharel Cotton works against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

By Morris Phillips

OAKLAND–Players Weekend was a resounding success for the Oakland A’s.

From the colorful uniforms and socks to the not always brilliantly inventive nicknames, and the familiar v-necks, the A’s made the three-day run their own with three, impressive wins over the Rangers, a team in the playoff hunt intent on using the Athletics as a stepping stone.

But it was the A’s that pitched and muscled their way through the weekend, and their youthful trade acquisitions and call-ups led the way.

The A’s are always looking for something to build on, and this was undoubtedly it. The team came in struggling through August, long presumed to become their team-record, tenth consecutive month with a losing record.

But with their first three-game win streak in almost a month, that losing record is no longer a certainty.

Jharel Cotton pitched six innings and struck out a career-best nine batters, and Matt Chapman had a career-best three hit game, a home run, and the game’s key play defensively as the A’s turned a close game into a 8-3 win.

Cotton’s second quality start in a row alone was good news for the A’s, who have been patient with their acquisition from the Dodgers in the Josh Riddick, Rich Hill trade through a season of ups and downs. That Cotton performed at the Coliseum was significant since his stats at home were among the worst among AL starters coming in.

“I’ve just been going game by game, trying to get better,” Cotton said. “I’ve found how to get better and better myself, and I’m doing that right now. It feels really good.”

Sporting the nickname “Squeaky,” a nod to Cotton’s overly noticeable bicycle of his youth, the 25-year old pitched hitters away on Sunday, a move born out of stubbornness aimed at reducing the numbers of home runs he’s allowed. But more importantly, according to manager Bob Melvin, Cotton expertly kept the difference between his heater and his changeup at or in excess of 10 mph, creating a conundrum for opposing hitters.

 

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