By Morris Phillips
The A’s are having a great season, but they didn’t have a great afternoon.
Texas’ Lance Lynn had a lot to do with that difference. But the A’s can still envision a triumphant return in October to the Rangers’ new ballpark for an unconventional World Series.
Lynn retired 17 batters in a row an pitched into the seventh inning of the Rangers 6-3 win that earned them a split of the four-game series. Lynn was dominant in spots, fortunate in some others, as he struck out 10, walked two, and allowed just one hit in the first six innings.
“They are a good team,” Lynn said of the A’s. “They have a deep lineup. They make you work for things, and today, I was able to kind of counter what they were doing early and get through seven.”
A pair of one-out base hits in the seventh left Lynn vulnerable, but he recovered, striking out Ramon Laureano, then getting a lunging stab of Jonah Heim’s liner from Isiah Kiner-Falefa to preserve a 4-1 lead.
“If that sneaks through, (Lynn’s) potentially out of the game,” manager Bob Melvin said. “That was a key play in the game.”
Jeff Mathis’ two-run homer off Lou Trivino in the bottom of the inning put the game out of reach. The A’s created a bit of uncertainty with single runs in the eighth and ninth, but ultimately couldn’t generate enough offense with only six hits, including Tommy La Stella’s solo shot with the A’s trailing by five.
The Rangers played the 26th game in their new ballpark–winning for just the 13th time–and homered three times in a game there for the first time. While the last place Rangers have broken even at home, their season has self-destructed due to 17 losses in their 21 road contests thus far.
The A’s lead over the second-place Astros is six games with 14 remaining, pending the result of the Astros-Dodgers game Sunday night. And while that might be cause for comfort, the A’s schedule is not. They split a doubleheader on Saturday, and will travel to Seattle for a makeup twinbill on Monday, before they start a two-game set at Colorado on Tuesday. In all the A’s will play 10 games in seven days, their busiest stretch since June 1966.
“It’s all on the road. It’s all lumped together. And not much time, and we’re traveling all over the place to do it. But other teams have done it too,” Melvin said.
Frankie Montas pitched into the sixth inning, but allowed seven hits and four runs, all coming on homers by Derek Dietrich and Rougned Odor. Montas will travel home for the birth of his child before rejoining the team later in the week.
Hopefully, the child birth serves as a reset for Montas, who has seen his ERA balloon from 1.57 to 5.86 since August 8. Montas is next scheduled to face the Giants at the Coliseum over the weekend.
The A’s received some sense of what their postseason will look pending the players association’s approval of the league’s proposal for an expanded playoffs. As the AL West champion, the A’s would host a best-of-three opening round with all three games at the Coliseum. While not the crapshoot of a single wild card game, the brief series likely would be against an experienced playoff opponent in the Indians or Yankees.
If the A’s survive, they would advance to an ALDS in either Los Angeles (Dodgers Stadium) or San Diego (Petco Park) and then an ALCS in Los Angeles.
The League winners would then gather in Arlington for a single site World Series at the brand new Globe Life Field. That series would end no later than October 30.