Games like this are why the late, great A's broadcaster Bill King famously refused to travel to Arlington. In a game that was billed as a matchup of potential rookie of the year candidates, both starting pitchers exited early while Nelson Cruz and the Rangers bullpen did just enough to escape with a victory, snapping their six game losing streak.
Dan Straily had been dominant over his past five starts and had not allowed a home run in over a month. That quickly changed in the second inning. Adrian Beltre led off with a sharp line drive to left, and AJ Pierzynski immediately followed with a two run blast off the right field foul pole. Straily was clearly having trouble locating pitches and was leaving the ball up. Maybe the 89 degree heat was getting to him, because the stuff he displayed in his 7 shutout innings just a few weeks ago in the same setting was absent tonight.
Meanwhile, the A's offense was stinging the ball all over the field against Nick Tepesch with little to show for it. That would change in the fourth inning, which saw the A's bat around, scoring six of their seven baserunners. SAVG! The inning started off with a John Jaso double (he has now reached base in sixteen straight games). Yoenis Cespedes then lasered a groundball that was too hot for gold glover Adrian Beltre to handle. The ball ricocheted off of his leg right to Elvis Andrus. Jaso took off for third as Beltre kicked the ball, and Andrus saw an easy out at third. Except that Jaso somehow eluding Beltre's first tag, oversliding the base, and escaping the second tag attempt. Replays showed that he was probably out on the second tag, but between this and his crazy run in the Yankees series when he should have been dead to rights, I think he has some sort of baserunning voodoo going on.
That was huge, because Brandon Moss smacked a mildly breaking slider over the middle of the plate for a line drive RBI. Tepesch then walked Josh Donaldson to load the bases, bringing Seth Smith to the plate. Smith stroked an easy grounder between first and second, plating two runs to tie up the game. For some reason, Ron Washington had infield playing in, as if expecting the red-hot Jed Lowrie to bunt. Lowrie lined a hanging curveball for a double; 4-3 A's. It wasn't over yet.
The runners held on a Josh Reddick groundout, and again the infield played in, with second and third, one out, in the fourth inning. I will not pretend to understand this move, but I can safely say this wasn't a Joe Maddon mad genius shift. Harry Potter stroked a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. Coco Crisp had a solid single to right to cap the scoring, as Jaso made the third out on his second time at bat in the inning.
Unfortunately, Straily and the A's bullpen couldn't hold on to the 6-3 lead. Straily was lucky to escape the bottom of the fourth only allowing a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. He coughed up a double to David Murphy, a walk to Martin, but got Jurickson Profar to fly out to end the inning. At that point it was clear that Straily was not settling down, but Melvin sent him back out for the 5th inning. While I admire the sentiment of trying to get the starter through five, Straily really did not have it today and he probably should have been replaced earlier.
He got the first out, but Ian Kinsler singled and advanced to second on a rare Josh Reddick error. He flirted with disaster with Adrian Beltre but his line drive safely ended up in Smith's glove. However, AJ Pierzynski struck again, smacking a double to score Kinsler. Suddenly the 6-3 lead was sitting at a precarious 6-5, with certified A's killer Nelson Cruz at the plate. Jesse Chavez, last week's hero, was sent in to get the crucial out. The last time this happened, Cruz crushed a grand slam off Chavez. Cruz again took him deep, this time for just two runs. Just like that, 7-6 Rangers, and Bill King rolled over in his grave.
Chavez was pulled after allowing two baserunners in the seventh inning, and Nelson Cruz struck again with a double off Jerry Blevins and his fourth RBI on the afternoon. Meanwhile, Neil Cotts and the rest of the Rangers' bullpen completely shut down the A's bats until the ninth inning. Smith led off the ninth with a double off Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Lowrie walked, Reddick struck out, and Chris Young hit a soft line drive trapped by Martin. Bases loaded, one out. Crisp drove in Smith with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-7 but giving up a precious out. Derek Norris, hitting over .300 against the Rangers for his career, stepped to the plate. Unfortunately, the lumberjack meekly popped up to end the game.
Tough loss, but at least the A's kept on fighting. We do it again tomorrow!