Texas Rangers pitcher Martin Perez walks to the Rangers dugout on the first base side before the ball game on Thu May 26, 2022 at the Oakland Coliseum with the inscription on his hat dedicated to the Robb Elementary School shooting victims in Uvlade Texas (AP News photo)
Texas. 4. 6. 0
Oakland. 1. 5. 1
Thursday May 26, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–While my back was turned, the Oakland A’s (19-28) took a three game series, two games to one, from the Mariners in Seattle, improving their record to 19-27, which lifted the team out of the AL West cellar for the first time in three weeks.
This put them within striking distance to overtake Thursday night’s visitors, the Texas Rangers (20-23) arriving in Oakland for third place by the end of the four game series that will continue through Sunday .
I couldn’t help thinking of the, probably apocryphal, headline that is said to have appeared in the 1936 Brooklyn Eagle, “Overconfidence May Cost the Dodgers Sixth Place.” In those days, each league had eight teams, and the players in the top four in each of them, referred to as the first division, received a share of the World Series receipts. No divisions, no playoffs, no interleague play.
One factor working against overconfidence in Oakland is that they’re playing in Oakland. I’m not knocking the place, although it does get kind of lonely here at the ballpark, which never has been the same since Al Davis performed disastrous plastic surgery on it before abandoning the East Bay in his never ending search for new suckers.
It’s just that the Athletics have played .500 ball on the road but have a lower level of achievement on the banks of the Nimitz.
The green and gold sent Frankie Montás to the mound in his first appearance since the scary blow to his pitching hand that he received in the second inning of his last start, five days ago in Anaheim. He brought a record of 2-4, 3.55 with him.
His Texas opponent was Martín Pérez, whose 3-2 won-lost mark is overshadowed by his ERA of 1.64, third best in all of major league baseball among qualifying pitchers.
For the first seven innings, the 3,203 fans in attendance were treated to a pitchers’ duel between the starters. Montás was lifted at the beginning of the eighth, having held Texas to one unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out 11.
He threw 96 pitches, 70 for strikes, and lowered his ERA to 3.12, leaving with a no decision. Pérez also left after seven innings´ labor. The run he yielded was earned, and came on four A’s hits, two walks, and a wild pitch. He threw 95 pitches, 62 for strikes. He K´d six Athletics and lowered his ERA to 1.60, also leaving with a no decision. In the end the A’s bullpen faltered, and the team lost to the Texans, 4-1.
Montás ran into trouble early. Kole Calhoun led off the second with a lined shot up the middle for a single. Elvis Andrus, playing to the right of second in the shift, made a nice diving stop of Jonah Heim´s grounder, but Christian Bethancourt couldn’t handle his awkward throw to first.
The A’s shortstop was charged with an error, and there were two on with none out. Montás recovered to strike out Adolís García but issued a full count walk to Nathaniel Lowe to load the bases.
It looked as if Oakland’s starter might pitch his way out of the jam when he fanned Brad Miller for his third K, but then he gave up another walk on a 3-2 count, this time to Andy Ibáñez, who earned his sixth RBI of the season with it, giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Pérez held Oakland to one hit over the first three frames, but the home team´s bats came alive in the bottom of the fourth. Chad Pinder led off with a single to left and cruised into third when Sean Murphy lashed an 84 mph change up for a double into deep left.
Pérez recovered to get Sheldon Neuse out on a called third strike that drew groans from the press box. Bethancourt sent a soft liner to Marcus Semien at second for out number two. Semien’s successor as A’s shortstop, Andrus, walked to load the bases with Oaklanders with two out.
Pérez’s, facing Kevin Smith, unleashed his second wild pitch of the evening, and, just like that, we had a 1-1 tie. Then Smith anticlimactically grounded out to third.
The score still was knotted at one when García sent Montás’s first offering of the seventh on one hop to the 367 foot sign in left field, just to the left of the auxiliary scoreboard for a stand up double. But Montás remained undaunted, fanning Lowe and Miller and getting Ibáñez out on an inoffensive pop up to Bethancourt at first. The Curse of the Lead Off Double strikes again.
The bottom of the seventh also was exciting. Bethancourt began it by bunting to the right side of the infield. Pérez fielded the ball, shuttled it to first, and Lowe couldn’t catch it. Bethancourt was on second when he was ruled out for batter’s interference; he’d run to the left of the right field line, cutting across it to get to the base. Then Andrus doubled to deep center but was stranded there when Smith struck out and Pache flew out to right.
Domingo Acevedo relieved Montás in the eighth and retired the side in order. Matt Bush, who replaced Pérez after his seven inning stint. He got his first two men, Laureano and Lowrie, but yielded a single to left to Pinder before getting Murphy to ground out to Semien.
It was Lou Trivino, in his newfound role as leverage reliever, who hurled the ninth for the green and gold. He gave up a one out single to Heim, up the middle, beating the shift.
Eli White immediate pinch ran for Heim and scored on García’s double that landed a few feet fair in deep left field. That was it for Trivino, and Sam Moll came in to face Lowe, who took him deep, 402 feet deep, to right. Then Moll retired the two remaining batters.
Joe Barlow, trying to close it out for the Rangers, had a three run lead to work with as he looked for his eighth save in as many opportunities. Neuse worked a full count before walking. Luis Barrera pinch hit for Bethancourt. He hit into a double play, short unassisted to first, and it was all over but the shouting, of which there was very little. Andrus popped out to Semien, and then it was over.
Bush was credited with the win, giving him a record of 2-1, 3.86. Barlow earned that eighth save, and Trivino was the losing pitcher. He’s now 1-3, 7.94.
The series continues Friday night at 6:40 pm with Jon Gray (1-2,5.14) scheduled to start for the Rangers and Cole Irvin (2-2,3.21) for the not so overconfident Athletics.