By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND — All the sections that don’t normally fill up during A’s games got populated on Sunday.
By A’s fans and Rangers’ home run balls.
For Oakland, that’s only half the battle as the A’s failed to climb closer to a postseason berth and home field advantage in AL Wild Card game. For Tanner Roark, it was a failed audition for a postseason rotation spot with plenty of openings for consistent performers that keep the ball within the park.
And for the Rangers, it was about time, after five consecutive, lopsided losses to the A’s and 13 losses to Oakland in the first 18 meetings of 2019. Moreover, the Rangers were tired of dropping road games. Texas finished the season 33-48 on the road for the second, straight season, and that’s just not good enough, not for a team that was in playoff contention through the season’s first 120 games.
“We’re disappointed that No. 81 didn’t mean something for the postseason,” Elvis Andrus said. “We did not play well on the road this year. It something we have to improve.”
The Rangers avoided an eighth, consecutive loss and a winless road trip in an emphatic manner with leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo sending the first pitch of the ballgame deep into the centerfield bleachers, estimated at 461 feet from the plate. Willie Calhoun and Andrus also went deep in the Rangers’ four-run, first inning, and those homers weren’t cheap either.
Roark would allow a second homer to Calhoun, and five earned runs in three innings before he was lifted. The veteran acquired from the Reds hadn’t lost at the Coliseum since being acquired in July. That winning streak ended with a thud, but the impression’s been made, Roark will be in consideration for a start at home in Game 3 or 4 of an ALDS if the A’s get that far.
“Like we’ve done all year since I’ve been here, you move on. Nobody dwells on anything. You just get better,” Roark opined.
The A’s were 10-1 in their previous 11 games coming in, making their two-game lead over Tampa Bay seem insurmountable, which it isn’t. The Rays also lost on Sunday, but Cleveland won Sunday night to pull into a dead heat with the Rays. The A’s are wholly focused on not only qualifying for the postseason but hosting the Wild Card game, which didn’t go their way last year in the Bronx against the Yankees.
With a week to go, the A’s would wish for one more thing. That the Rays and Indians finish in a dead heat, forcing them to play each other 24 hours prior to the winner traveling to Oakland. But with a week, and six games remaining, we digress.
The A’s rotation for the final week remains a mystery with Frankie Montas eligible to return from his 80-game suspension on Wednesday. Homer Bailey will start Tuesday in Anaheim, but little is set beyond that with the A’s wanting line up one of their starters–likely Mike Fiers or Sean Manaea for Tuesday’s Wild Card playoff.
If the chosen starter can’t cut it, the A’s have a deep bullpen with additions A.J. Puk, Jesus Luzardo and Chris Bassitt ready to take prominent roles.
The A’s drew 38,453 fans to the home finale, and saw their home season attendance improve better than 80,000 fans over what they drew in 2018. The A’s finished with a 52-29 record at the Coliseum.