The A's picked up a great win tonight, taking down Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers and adding a game to their AL West lead — Texas now trails Oakland by three games, with two more left to play in this four-game set in Arlington.
Jarrod Parker was fantastic and the A's offense supported him well, putting up six runs against one of baseball's best right-handed starters. The A's are really doing a number on the American League's most-feared Japanese pitchers — they blasted Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma on Sunday afternoon and hit Darvish hard tonight. This offense isn't intimidated by much.
Brandon Moss got the scoring started in the A's half of the 2nd inning, laying off a first-pitch slider from slider in favor of something with a straighter trajectory. He took an 0-1 fastball and hit a line-drive homer to right field, giving the Athletics a 1-0 lead.
Oakland would add on in the same inning on a Reddick run: he singled, stole second base, and scored on an Eric Sogard single to center field. The A's led 2-0 after one and a half, but it's Texas, and the scoring was far from over. It turned out Yu wasn't as effective as he usually (Yusually?) is.
A's catcher John Jaso widened the lead even more in the top of the 3rd, once again laying off a first pitch breaking ball and taking Darvish deep on a two-seamer that he hit over the right field wall. Jaso's offense in general has been pretty much on par with what the A's organization expected going into this season, save for his slugging average. Having just two home runs on June 18 doesn't help, but now it's two and not one, so he's moving in the right direction. His slash is now .281/.379/.371. His BABIP is .346, though, and that might not be sustainable given his career mark of .287.
Parker, after sailing pretty smoothly through his first two innings, ran into some trouble in the bottom of the 3rd. A Leonys Martin single, Ian Kinsler walk, and an A.J. Pierzynski single to center field plated two for Texas. There was a play at the plate on the RBI single, in which Ian Kinsler bowled over Jaso, leaving both players shaken up. Jaso ended up actually throwing Pierzynski out trying to steal third base soon after, despite being at least a little bit dazed (Seth Smith was caught on TV holding up fingers for Jaso to see, to confirm that he could actually count to two). Unfortunately for the A's, that was the lone hiccup in Texas' day-long parade of steals. The damage was done, though, and the A's lead was 3-2. There was, interestingly, a lengthy injury delay between the third and fourth innings while Kinsler got his entire face — bloody from the collision — cleaned up and bandaged.
Oakland didn't seem content with a one-run lead, though. The A's struck back quickly, starting off the inning with a Josh Donaldson single, and a Seth Smith double. Josh Donaldson scored on a wild pitch for the second time in eight days. After a sharp Reddick lineout, Sogard hit a ground ball hard, but right to Lance Berkman. The 37-year-old first baseman probably didn't need to charge the ball, but he did, and he pulled up his glove right as the ball reached him, clanking the grounder and giving Sogard a free pass to first and scoring Smith, which put the A's up 5-2.
Parker continued throwing the ball well, turning what was on pace to be a solid start in the 4th inning into a gem by the 7th. In the end, he held the Rangers to a line of 3 H, 2 BB, 2 ER, 4 K. On some nights, that doesn't get it done when your opposition is Yu Darvish, but the A's offense did its part this evening in Arlington, and then some.
Oakland came up with an insurance run in the top of the 8th when Moss hit a booming triple to left-center field, and later scored on a sac fly from Donaldson, allowing Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour to come in and each work 1-2-3 innings in the 8th and 9th, respectively, giving the A's the 6-2 victory and knotting up the four-game series at one win apiece.
Reddick continues to look vastly improved on offense; he got BABIP'd in one at bat and singled before stealing a base in another, all while batting in the eighth spot in the order, in front of only Eric Sogard. The important thing is that he's comfortable in the box and isn't pressing. I wouldn't be surprised to see 15 second-half home runs from him plus a more typical Reddick slash line of .240/.310/.450.
With guys like Reddick and Moss producing, the A's lineup is truly nasty against right-handed pitching. Case in point: Eric Sogard was the worst hitter in tonight's lineup, and he entered the game hitting .282 against righties. He batted ninth. Oakland's 6-7-8 was Josh Donaldson, Seth Smith, and Josh Reddick. That's the best 6-7-8 in baseball, even though it's not what the A's order typically looks like.
Yoenis Cespedes was quiet tonight, going 0-3 with a walk. I think part of his struggles over the past week are attributable to the fact that he's been the DH for the last five games since he tweaked a hamstring last week. For some players — and I'd imagine Cespedes especially — not playing in the field really takes you out of the rhythm and flow of a game, and doing that five times in a row has to at least subconsciously impact your approach at the plate. Thankfully, though, Bob Melvin is just being abundantly cautious, and we can probably expect to see him back in left field soon.
The A's, as we all know, need to be able to compete with Texas on the offensive side of the ball if they want to win games in Arlington, and they've done exactly that so far in the series — they put up seven in a losing effort last night and six to get the victory this evening. If they can keep that going, they're in good shape for tomorrow and Thursday.
I'll leave you all with one last thought. The A's are 43-30, lead the AL West by three games, and on this fine evening of June 18, ESPN.com gives the A's an 80.1% chance of making the playoffs. Yet somehow, many key pieces aren't performing the way they're capable of. Derek Norris is under the Mendoza line. Yoenis Cespedes is hitting .232. Josh Reddick is hitting .211 with three homers. Don't get me started on what Chris Young could do if he really got going. Adam Rosales has been pretty pathetic at the plate in 2013. What I mean to say is that Oakland's offense could get a LOT better. Just think about this team with all of those guys playing up to their potential. With upcoming series against St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Cincinnati, they might need to, but it's still an awesomely scary thing to imagine.