By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–Only one run–or one bases-loaded walk–separated the Rangers and the A’s on Sunday, but those small margins tend to play much bigger this time of year.
The A’s escaped a late deficit, and salvaged a split of a four-game series when reliever Jose Leclerc walked Khris Davis with the bases loaded in a tie game in the ninth inning.
Oakland hitters were well aware of Leclerc’s situation. Pitching for the third straight day, and the fourth in five days, the reliever was running on fumes in the absence of closer Chris Martin, who was scratched due to back tightness. LeClerc’s fatigue shaped the A’s approach in which they fouled off nearly half of the 31 pitches he threw.
Tabbing Leclerc wasn’t a stroke of genius, Texas manager Chris Woodward admitted his hands were tied.
“It’s unfair to put him in that role three days in a row and four out of five,” Woodward said. “It hurts my heart to see him take the loss.”
Chris Hermann led off, and singled on a 1-2 fastball. Then Marcus Semien fouled off four, consecutive pitches and drew a walk after seeing 10 pitches. Matt Chapman flew out for the inning’s first out, but he also fouled off four, two-strike pitches.
Matt Olson was the next batter and he singled through a drawn-in infield to tie the game. The Rangers then elected to intentionally walk Mark Canha, loading the bases. But that strategy was foiled when Davis showed patience, drawing the game-winning walk.
“You know you have to be patient,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He saw it well enough to see it was a ball and in that situation it’s as good as a hit, as good as a homer, and it gives us a win.”
Davis was an unlikely hero given his home run drought, dating back to June 18, and his grand total of 11 hits in July despite being a regular presence in the lineup.
So was Blake Treinen, who pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the win. Liam Hendriks, who took over Treinen’s job, couldn’t close the door in the eighth when he inherited a runner in scoring position and allowed run scoring hits to the first two batters he faced. That started a three-run rally that wiped out the A’s 4-2 rally.
The A’s maintained the second wild card spot with the win, just ahead of the surging Red Sox and Rays. The Indians blew a big lead in Kansas City on Sunday, keeping Oakland within three games of the top wild card spot.
After winning five in a row to open the second half of the season, the A’s have dropped 6 of 11. Will that cold snap prompt the A’s to make more moves before Wednesday’s trade deadline? It appears likely.