By Morris Phillips
OAKLAND–In a lot of ways, Sunday’s A’s game was lost on Saturday.
The agonizing 4-3 defeat to the Rangers at the Coliseum saw the A’s fall behind 4-0 through four innings, then rally to trail just 4-3 after six. But the final three innings were quiet ones; the A’s went hitless as they failed to even challenge Texas’ slim lead.
And if Sunday was bad, Saturday was worse, thus the conclusion that the struggling club lost whatever momentum it had in a brutal 8-6 loss in which the Rangers wiped out a four-run deficit in the final two frames as the bullpen again failed to hold a lead.
Instead of a potential five-game win streak to pull the A’s within a game of Boston for the second wild card spot, the A’s have lost 17 of 26 and can’t seem to get over the hump. Losing has a wearing effect, especially for a ballclub not blessed with a great deal of depth, and stuck in a rut with its pitching.
What’s clear is the A’s have been afforded opportunities, including this current stretch of nine games against three clubs with losing records. Along with that, the teams in front of them in the standings have flatlined with the Yankees winning just three of their last 10, and the Red Sox at .500 (5-5).
One issue is the Rangers, a team that stands 26 games below .500 after consecutive wins in Oakland, and has found a way–time and time again–to cool the A’s hitters. The season series between the A’s and Rangers concludes with the A’s holding a slim 10-9 advantage, and five of those nine Rangers’ wins have seen the A’s score three runs or less, including Sunday.
Not that the A’s didn’t do good things against the Rangers, most notably hit 34 homers in the 19 games between the clubs, just one home run off their franchise record for home runs against one club in one season. But often it was homer and little else. On Sunday, Yan Gomes homered in the fifth, and Matt Olson in the sixth, but the remainder of the Oakland output was three singles and a walk. A’s hitters in spots six through nine went hitless, drawing the only walk.
It didn’t help that Matt Chapman was unavailable after fouling a ball off his shin on Saturday, or that Mitch Moreland was in Alabama seeking a second opinion on his injured wrist that has sidelined him for two weeks.
James Kaprelian allowed all four Rangers’ runs, and fell to 7-5 on the season in the process. Kaprelian surrendered eight hits and a walk. He was lifted in the fourth by manager Bob Melvin, who probably couldn’t afford to be patient with the season on the line in these final 20 games.
Taylor Hearn went six innings for the Rangers, allowing the two home runs but little else. The reliever turned starter didn’t walk anybody, but gassed out after 80 pitches, a sign his transformation from reliever to starter isn’t yet complete.
The A’s hit the road for six ballgames starting Tuesday in Kansas City, then on to Anaheim for a weekend meeting with the Angels. Frankie Montas will be looking to pick up his 13th win of the season in the opener.