The Texas Rangers Andy Ibanez belts a two run single as Oakland A’s catcher Sean Murphy watches in the top of the ninth inning at the Oakland Coliseum on Fri May 27, 2022 (AP News photo)
Texas. 8. 13. 1
Oakland. 5. 5. 1
Friday May 27, 2022
By Lewis Rubman
OAKLAND–Bruce Levine and Joel Bierig published an interview with Jim Katt in the March-April issue of Baseball Digest. In it, the soon to be inducted Hall of Famer recalled some advice that Warren Spahn once gave him, “Kid,” said the durable HOF lefty, “when the score’s tied in the seventh inning, the game’s just starting.” Think of Candlestick Park, July 2, 1963.
That was when starters were expected to go nine innings unless lifted for a pinch hitter. It’s still true today, but it’s just a fact, not a guide to how a starter should pitch. Pitchers who regularly last seven or more frames now are considered iron men.
The game’s just starting in the seventh, but it’s in the hands of one, two, or three relievers per team. This change has been more pronounced in 2021 and ’22 than before because of the short time pitchers have had in which to strengthen their arms in a lengthy spring training.
We saw the results Thursday night, when Martín Pérez and Frankie Montás dueled each other to a 1-1 standoff for seven frames and the Rangers’ bullpen held while the Athletics’ faltered.
Game recap: At the Coliseum wasn’t when it went into the seventh; it WAS tied in the seventh. And the starters weren’t around for more than an out in that frame. Cole Irvin (2-2, 3.21 at game time) left after yielding a one out single in the top of the inning.
In his 6-1/3 innings pitched, he allowed three runs, two of them earned, including the one scored by Kole Calhoun, who was on base when the A’s starter left the game. The lefty had allowed six hits and no walks, striking out four. He threw 96 pitches, 64 for strikes.
His rival for Texas, Jon Gray (1-2,5.14, ditto) didn’t answer the bell for the seventh and yielded five runs, all earned and all in the third inning, on five hits and three free passes. He also retired five batters on strikes. His pitch count was 91, 59 for strikes.
After seven innings, the score was tied, at 5-5. But this was not the sort of game that Spahn had in mind. The final score was 8-5, Texas.
The 30 year old Gray spent seven years with the Rockies, where he went 53-49, 4.59 before signing a four year contract with Texas. He throws a fastball in the upper 90s, which he mixes with sliders, curves, and changeups.
He already has spent two stints on the IL this season, coming off it most recently on May 2. Irvin, too, has spent time on the IL year. He was pronounced fit for duty last Sunday. Before his bout with tendinitis, he had been 2-1, 2.93.
He took the loss against the Angels in Anaheim in his one appearance since his return, yielding three runs, all earned, on eight hits over six innings.
The 28 year old ex-Phillie doesn’t have a particularly high velocity fastball, but he does have a wide variety of pitches that he mixes well. You could call him a classical cagey lefty.
Cagey or not, Irvin had a difficult first inning. He surrendered a lead off single to left to Marcus Semien, who was struggling with a batting average of .181. Seager flew out to left, and then Adolís García sent a ground ball to Sheldon Neuse, playing third, who threw wildly to first.
It was ruled a hit and an error and resulted in Semien ending up on third and García at second. They didn’t stay there; both scored Jonah Heim’s sharp single to center.
But Cole kept his cool, and his defense, which had let him down on García’s grounder, got him out of the inning with a 6-4-3 double play into the shift, shortstop Elvis Andrus fielding the ball to the right of second and flipping it to second baseman Tony Kemp, at the bag, who relayed it to Seth Brown at first.
Oakland fell victim to The Curse of the Leadoff Double in its half of the second. Sean Murphy hit a 2-2 pitch hard to left, the ball bouncing once on the grass before bouncing again off the Ring Central sign for a stand up two bagger. He moved on to third on Barrera’s one out grounder to the mound, but that was as far as he got.
The home team broke through and went ahead in the third. Nuese drew a full count walk to start it off. Kemp’s chop bounced off Lowe’s glove between first and second, and the A’s had runners on first and second with none down.
After Lowrie flew out to left, Ramón Laureano singled into left center, driving in Neuse and sending Kemp around to third. He crossed the plate to tie the score while Laureano advanced to second on Brown’s ground out to second.
The A’s center fielder then stole third and romped home on catcher Heim’s throwing error. Not satisfied with merely taking the lead, your (at long last) swinging A’s belted back to back home runs.
Both Murphy and Pinder connected for his fifth round tripper of the year; Murphy’s 415 feet to center on a 96 mph four seamer, and Pinder’s 406 feet to right center off another four seamer that arrived at only 94 mph. When Barrera flew out to right for the third out, the green and gold were ahead, 5-2.
The A’s held that advantage until the top of the seventh, when their bullpen once more let a lead erode. Justin Grim relieved Irvin with one out and Calhoun on first. A single to Sam Huff put runners on first and second.
Lowe’s double to left center drove in Calhoun with the Rangers’ third tally, which was charged to Irvin’s account, and allowed Lowe to take third. Brad Miller, pinch hitting for Charlie Culberson, grounded out to second, bringing Lowe home with the run that made it a one run ballgame.
Zach Jackson took over for Grim. Eli White dropped a bunt in front of the plate, Murphy fielded it and threw to first, where Brown made a grand stretch and catch to end the inning and preserve Oakland’s fragile lead.
That lead dissolved in the eighth. With Jackson on the mound, Semien led off with a Texas League single to right. After Seager went down swinging, García blasted a double off the right field wall that drove in Semien with the tying run.
A great series of throws, Laureano to Kemp to Murphy to Neuse, cut down García, trying to stretch his RBI double Heim went down swinging to end the inning, with the score knotted up at five.
Matt Moore, who relieved Gray in the seventh, pitched two perfect innings for the visitors.
Danny Jiménez faced the Texans in the top of the ninth. He began inauspiciously, issuing a full count walk to Calhoun, but recovered to record a full count swinging strike out of Huff.
Then Lowe hit his second straight double to left center, this time stopped on the short hop by a marvelous sliding backhanded grab by Laureano. Calhoun showed his respect for the arm of the A’s center fielder by stopping at third.
Jiménez retired Miller on a called third strike, to the batter´s obvious displeasure. It looked as if Jiménez might bar the door, but Lowe stole second, but pinch hitting Andy Ibáñez smacked a single up the middle, plating Calhoun and Lowe, and went to second on the throw.
Semien drove him in from there with a single to left. And that´s how a 5-2 Oakland lead became an 8-5 Texas lead. Adam Kolarek relieved Jiménez and got the final out.
Dennis Santana earned his first save of 2022 with a perfect bottom of the ninth. The win went to Matt Moore, who’s now at 2-0, 2.01. Jiménez (1-2,1.89) took the loss.
The third game of this series will start tomorrow afternoon at 1:07 with left handers Zach Logue (2-3, 4.43) and Taylor Hearn (2-3, 5.77) taking the mound for the Athletics and Rangers, respectively at the Oakland Coliseum.