A solid five innings from Dan Straily, home runs from Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes, and scoreless relief work from Dan Otero, Brett Anderson, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour have the A's back in a tie for first place. In front of 23,495 frenzied fans on a sun-splashed day at the Oakland Coliseum, a few costly mistakes on Texas' part and a nerve-wracking yet effective four innings from the bullpen gave the A's a 4-2 win, and seemingly all of the momentum in the AL West race.
Yoenis Cespedes got the scoring started in the bottom of the second inning, depositing a high fastball from Derek Holland just under the "Yo Power" sign in the left field bleachers (but over the wall, obviously), giving the A's a 1-0 lead. It was a site for sore eyes, given Cespedes' struggles recently and throughout the season, and if he gets going in September, that's a literal game-changer.
Oakland wasn't done, either. With one out, Alberto Callaspo doubled on a line drive to left field, bringing up Chris Young. CY hit a sharp ground ball up the middle that just snuck past Juricksen Profar as he ranged to his left. Texas center fielder Leonys Martin came in to make a play on the ball and maybe try to throw out Callaspo at the plate, but completely muffed it — he just couldn't get his glove down, and the ball rolled all the way to the warning track, allowing Callaspo to walk home.
Young may have already had his sights set on advancing to second base on the throw to the plate, but now he had his sights set on third base, at least. Mike Gallego had bigger ideas, actually waving him past third base, hoping for an error-aided inside-the-park home run. But Young hesitated just before hitting the bag at third, and his hesitation caused him to stumble. And in turn, his stumble allowed Profar's relay to arrive in plenty of time to get Young. The A's led 2-0, but Kurt Suzuki's deep fly ball to center field with two outs just rubbed salt in the wound — had Gallego stopped Young, he would've scored easily on the would-have-been sac fly.
In the third, Michael Choice drew a leadoff walk in his first MLB plate appearance, but the next three batters were retired in order.
Skip to the fifth inning, in which the Rangers struck quickly in a very Oakland-esque fashion. Mitch Moreland drew a walk, and David Murphy hit a two-run blast to left-center field, tying the game at 2. Straily would get the next two outs, but that was the end of his afternoon, as Dan Otero came in to replace him in the top of the 6th.
The A's wasted absolutely zero time getting those two runs back in the bottom half, as Michael Choice reached on an incredibly rare throwing error from Adrian Beltre. With a runner on, Crisp hit a low line drive to left field that snuck over the wall and struck the very bottom of the foul pole, giving the A's a 4-2 lead. It was actually a phenomenal call by The call would stand after being reviewed by the umpires on video, leaving Coco with a career-high 17 home runs on the season.
Dan Otero worked a scoreless sixth inning, followed by a scoreless 1.1 IP from Anderson, who was spelled in the middle of the eighth inning by Ryan Cook.
Between the joy of the bullpen's success came a mini-nightmare, as Crisp fouled a ball directly off his leg for the second strike of his at bat against Nick Tepesch. He would swing and miss at the next pitch, and wouldn't return to the game on defense. Brandon Moss moved to right field, and Daric Barton moved to first base, with Freiman already out of the game for defense (in this case, I guess it's lack of defense). Coco said after the game that he's fine, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him out of the lineup on Tuesday night.
So it was up to Grant Balfour to close out the Rangers in the ninth inning. True to form, he gave up a leadoff, four-pitch walk to David Murphy and then allowed a single to Leonys Martin, putting the go-ahead run at the plate with none out. But as Balfour almost always does, he righted the ship and got Jurickson Profar to ground out to Barton, a flyout from Kinsler, and another groundout from Adrian Beltre to seal the deal.
This was a fantastic win for the A's. Not only are they now tied for first place in the AL, but they clearly have all the momentum going into the season's final 25 games. One fact that's more in the Rangers' favor, though, is that of the five remaining games between Oakland and Texas, three will be played in Arlington. But on the other hand, the A's get seven games against the lowly Minnesota Twins, and we've seen that both the A's and Rangers are streaky, anyway. It'll be a fantastic race, no doubt, but right now it seems to be the A's holding all the cards.
Oakland also has phenomenal roster flexibility that only looks to improve as players like Derek Norris return from the DL, with Norris, Vogt, and Suzuki available to catch at any given time. Daric Barton has been decently productive offensively and is always good as a late-game defensive replacement. With Coco potentially out for a few games, if that, Michael Choice could get a start in right field tomorrow.
The way Bob Melvin used Brett Anderson this afternoon was interesting — instead of essentially handing him the ball and telling him that the ballgame is his to finish in the top of the 6th, Melvin only let him go one inning, meaning that he's available for the rest of the series. Given the way the bullpen's big guns have pitched lately and how over-used Balfour, Doolittle, and Cook have been, I think that letting Anderson go as long as possible wouldn't have been a bad move at all.
But the A's got away with one, and Anderson is probably available to pitch tomorrow or Wednesday, along with Sean Doolittle, who didn't pitch today.
The A's get a little longer than 24 hours to regroup and go after the outright division lead tomorrow night at 7:05pm at the Coliseum. That game has Martin Perez (8-3, 3.58 ERA) going up against Bartolo Colon (14-5, 2.94 ERA). I'll have your gamethread again!