By Matthew Harrington
OAKLAND, Calif. — When the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers last met at O.Co Coliseum for a three-game set April 21-23, the visitors scored 12 runs total en route to a sweep. The series marked a tightly-pitched affair after Rangers hurlers stifled the potent A’s offense to just seven runs and three-straight losses. The A’s welcomed Texas back to Alameda County Monday night in a game no one would confuse for a pitchers’ duel. Texas tallied 14 runs while the A’s scored eight runs, both surpassing the team totals from the April set at the Coliseum.
Rangers first baseman Donnie Murphy picked up three RBIs on a pair of home runs, his fourth career multi-homer game while Yoenis Cespedes went 1 for 3 with four runs batted in for the A’s. Brandon Moss also homered for Oakland, but four Texas long balls lifted the Rangers (35-35) passed the Green and Gold 14-8. The loss matches the second-largest margin of defeat the A’s (42-28) have suffered all season, with only last Friday’s 7-0 shutout at the hands of the Yankees marking a worse run differential.
Neither starting pitcher hurled a memorable game but Rangers righty Colby Lewis (5-4, 5.97 ERA) threw well enough to pick up the win. He went 5 1/3 innings allowing fives runs. Pomeranz (5-4, 2.91) struggled to complete 3 2/3 innings, serving up eight Texas runs (seven earned) on eight hits on start removed from a seven inning, one-run performance against the Los Angeles Angels.
“I wasn’t as sharp in the beginning,” said Pomeranz. “I actually felt really good up there. They were patient at the plate. I didn’t make some pitches, they just waited for some mistakes.”
The A’s bullpen yielded six runs, with Ryan Cook , Jeff Francis and Fernando Abad all guilty of surrendering two runs apiece. The A’s committed three errors.
After Pomeranz held the Rangers in check to open the first inning, Coco Crisp had the A’s running right out of the gate. Crisp ripped a 2-2 pitch to left-center for a double, then came around to score on John Jaso’s flare to shallow center. Jaso, one of three catchers in A’s manager Bob Melvin’s line-up, advanced to second base on the throw to the plate. Lewis gifted Jaso third base after bouncing a wild pitch to backstop Robinson Chirinos. The free base allowed Jaso to score easily after Cespedes lofted the 2-1 delivery to left fielder Michael Choice for the sacrifice fly.
“We had some opportunities early,” said Melvin. “We went ahead 2-0. We had some opportunities in the next inning and we didn’t come through. We didn’t play a great game after that. Even though in the later innings we came back and made a game of it, it was just not far enough.”
Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios reached base to open the second, then advanced into scoring position on a Donnie Murphy sacrifice bunt. Chirinos then wrapped a two-run base hit to tie the ballgame after battling Pomeranz in a full count.
Former A’s utility man Donnie Murphy provided the tie-shattering blast in the fourth inning, depositing a no-out, two-run home run over the wall in deep left center. The first basemen entered play amidst a 0-for-14 cold snap at the plate before emphatically turning around his fortunes. The Rangers tacked on four more runs in the inning, highlighted by a two-out, two-run double off the bat of former American League All-star Beltre for a comfortable 8-2 advantage.
Michael Choice, the Rangers haul for shipping Craig Gentry to Oakland in the offseason, burned his former parent club with a two-run shot of his own. The dinger snapped 16 at-bats without a hit for the right-hander, placing Choice amongst Chirinos (3), Beltre (3) and Murphy (3) for Rangers with two RBIs or more Monday night. Chirinos and Murphy would later hit back-to-back homers off Fernando Abad in the ninth inning, the first two extra-base hits the southpaw has allowed this season.
A’s clean-up hitter Brandon Moss lifted his 17th home run of the season to bring Oakland within seven runs. Moss now has 31 big flys since the 2013 All-Star Break, tied with Edwin Encarnacion for the second most in the Major Leagues during that time. The Lone Star sluggers answered back, scoring on a rare sacrifice fly to third base for their 11th run.
Oakland scratched out a run of its own in the bottom half of the inning after back-to-back doubles from Alberto Callaspo and Coco Crisp to chase Lewis after four runs. Callaspo, returning from paternity leave Monday night, went 4 for 5 while sporting a new uniform number. The A’s second basemen donned a “7” between his shoulder blades Monday night.
Cespedes added three runs on a towering shot later in the inning, his 13th homer of the season, to cut the deficit to 11-7. Callaspo chipped in a run-scoring base hit in the eighth.
Kyle Blanks, who entered the game as a pinch hitter for John Jaso in the sixth, came up to the plate in the eighth representing the tying run with Callaspo at second and Vogt at first. He worked a full count off Neal Cotts but froze on a fastball right at the knees for strike three. In total, the A’s stranded 12 runners.
The Rangers added three more runs over the final two innings while holding the A’s in check despite a two-hit ninth inning rally.
“We scored some runs tonight,” said Melvin. “We’re a club that leads the league in pitching. We’re used to holding teams under four runs. The last couple games we haven’t been able to do that.”
Submariner Ben Rowen finished off the win, coaxing a ground ball out from Blanks to wrap up game one of the series. Tuesday’s match-up won’t be any easier for the A’s, with Texas sending Yu Darvish and his 2.11 ERA to the mound to face Tommy Milone.