If the Texas Rangers thought they were going to waltz into Oakland and celebrate their first division title in over decade without breaking a sweat, they picked the wrong guy for a dance-off.
Dallas Braden threw one-hit ball in eight innings of work and struck out seven Rangers to earn his tenth victory of the season. Make that 18 straight scoreless innings against Texas' robust lineup for Braden, and a league-leading 16 shutouts for Oakland.
The A's took advantage of a less-than-sharp Cliff Lee to give Braden more than enough run support under a full moon at the Coliseum. Lee issued back-to-back walks for the first time all season, and they were leadoff batters to boot. Both free pass recipients- Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki- would go on to score; the former on a shattered-bat single by Jack Cust, the latter on a sac fly by Chris Carter. The rookie battled back from an 0-2 count before driving home Suzuki on a 3-2 pitch to make it 2-0 A's in the mojo fourth.
One inning later, Oakland doubled its lead. Steve Tolleson's smash down the third-base line drove home a flying Gabe Gross from first. It was Tolleson's first RBI of his career and his second two-bagger on the night, and he later scored on your standard 4-3-6 double play (Mark Ellis got caught in a rundown).
Exit Lee. His replacement, Scott Feldman, fared no better. Not at first anyway. Matt Carson's double over the head of center-fielder David Murphy plated Carter, who had singled with one out in the sixth. Yeah, I think the kid's going to be alright. Carter, not Carson.
The A's would score no more, nor would they need to. Braden made sure of that. He retired 19 straight from the last out in the first through the end of the seventh, the 19th out being recorded by a sprawling Gross in foul territory. Not bad for a guy who didn't know he was starting until about an hour before game time (in place of Rajai Davis, who was scratched due to non-baseball related issues).
When Braden got into trouble after doing his best Lee-impression by walking the first two batters in the eighth, he reared back to keep the Rangers off the board. With a little more help from his friends. Defensive-replacement Cliff Pennington speared a ball off the bat of Murphy and made a nice throw to get the lead runner at third. Having gotten the second out on a fly ball, Braden struck out A's-killer Taylor Teagarden to put an emphatic end to the inning, and as it turned out, his night.
And what a night it was.