This was the most important game of the season and tomorrow will be the most important game of the season and so will be the pattern for the rest of the year with 8 games remaining. With the extra-inning win in Arlington tonight, the A's have regained some much needed momentum going into the final stretch. It was only one win, but after losing two games in New York and one yesterday, all three on walk-offs, a win against the American League's best and owners of first place in the division might just be the spark that the A's are looking for to reserve themselves a comfy ticket to October.
Yu Darvish was originally set to start the game for Texas, but was sidelined with neck stiffness, leaving Scott Feldman to make a spot start. Feldman quickly retired Cliff Pennington, Stephen Drew, and Yoenis Cespedes in order. Tommy MIlone, making his 3 start of the season against the Rangers, didn't get off to a great start. The first two Texas batters both got on base with line drive singles to put them at first and second. With no outs in the inning Josh Hamilton singled on a ball to right fielder Brandon Moss, but as Moss attempted to scoop the ball to possibly throw home for a play at the plate, he missed the ball and it would roll all the way to the right field wall, scoring both runners. With two unearned runs having already scored, Milone induced a rare pop out in foul territory from Adrian Beltre, a soft ground out from Nelson Cruz, and struck out Michael Young to strand Hamilton at third and get out of the inning with no earned runs, but the Rangers still had the early 2 - 0 lead.
The A's struck back in the top of the second, leading off with a walk from Brandon Moss, a strike out from Seth Smith, a walk to Chris Carter, and with two Carter and Moss at first and second, Daric Barton, getting the start at first today, lined a double over the head of Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz, scoring Moss and bringing runners to second and third. With the score 2 - 1 and looking to tie the game, the Josh Donaldson and George Kottaras were unable to tie it as they both hit soft ground outs to end the inning, leaving the A's down by one going into the bottom half of the second.
Nobody was able to get on base for either team from the bottom of the second until the bottom of the third as Milone and Feldman were both pitching well. Leading off the top of the fourth inning, Brandon Moss lined a single to center field, but was then taken off the basepaths once Seth Smith followed by grounding into a 3-6-3 double play. With 2 outs and nobody left on base, Chris Carter blasted a mammoth homer to left field, his sixteenth on the season, to tie the game at 2 - 2. Daric Barton followed with a walk, but the A's wouldn't score as the inning ended with a ground out from Josh Donaldson.
Scott Feldman would end up pitching 4 innings giving up 2 earned runs on 4 hits, 3 walks and 5 strikeouts, in a solid start in place of Yu Darvish. Milone would top him, going 6 innings, giving up no earned runs (2 unearned), on 6 hits and no walks with 3 strikeouts.
Michael Kirkman was put in to pitch in relief for the Rangers and gave them two shutout innings to keep the game tied. Jim Miller relieved Milone, but led off the bottom of the seventh by walking Michael Young. David Murphy then followed by grounding into a fielder's choice out as the A's got Young out at second, but couldn't get the double play in time. Mike Napoli then struck out for the second out, and with Geovany Soto batting, Murphy stole second with two outs. Sean Doolittle would then be brought into the game, but not before Miller walked Soto to put runners at first and second with 2 outs. Doolittle was put in to get Ian Kinsler out, but he walked him for the third walk of the inning to load the bases. Elvis Andrus, who had a .500 batting average with the bases loaded in 2012, then lined a 3-2 pitch to right field. The ball looked like it could have been the big blow to give the Rangers the lead for good, but Brandon Moss was able to make the running catch at the warning track to end the threat and keep the game tied at 2-2.
From the top of the 8th to the bottom of the 9th, neither team scored, leading the game into extra innings. With Mark Lowe replacing Alexi Ogando, the A's were finally rejuvenated as George Kottaras mashed second-deck homer to right field, giving the A's the 3 - 2 lead. In a way all the close game that the A's had lost recently reminded us that when taking the lead in the 9th inning and beyond, there are always 3 more outs to secure the win.
The A's wouldn't score anymore in the top of the 10th and Grant Balfour was ready for the biggest three outs of the season. To lead off the bottom of the 10th, Balfour got pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to strike out swinging on a 3 - 2 fastball on the outside corner. With two outs left to go Ian Kinsler worked the count full, but also struck out swinging on another fastball. With two outs, Balfour got Elvis Andrus to pop out to second basemen Cliff Pennington for the third out, securing the 3-2 win.
As of now the A's are half a game behind the Orioles for the first wild card and 2.5 ahead of the Angels for the first, but the division has not been won yet as they currently stand 4 games behind the Rangers with 8 games left to play, with 5 left against the Rangers.
Oh, and also:
I will gladly be a man of my word.