Well, the A's are back in second place. An all-around uninspiring evening from the green and gold has the A's a game behind the Rangers, making the rubber match tomorrow afternoon almost a must-win with three games in Arlington looming on the horizon. Bartolo Colon was both mediocre and unlucky tonight, while the A's offense stalled repeatedly with runners in scoring position. The bullpen wasn't great, either. Heard this one before?
Oakland struck first, taking advantage of a leadoff double from Coco Crisp. Consecutive sacrifice flies from Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie would move Crisp to third and then bring him in to score, giving the A's a 1-0 lead.
The A's blew a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the 3rd when Josh Donaldson, having reached second base on a one-out double, never even looked at Mike Gallego when Yoenis Cespedes hit a ground ball to deep shortstop. Jurickson Profar got to the ball, diving to his backhand side, but for whatever reason, Donaldson assumed that the ball had trickled by Profar and into left field. He rounded third base and headed for home, where Profar threw him out by 10 feet to end the inning. If Donaldson looks at Gallego rounding third, the A's would've seen Nate Freiman bat with runners on the corners (assuming Cespedes had legged out the infield single, which I think he would have), but instead, they failed to score or extend the inning.
Bartolo Colon looked decent through his first three innings of work, allowing multiple singles in both the 1st and 3rd innings but recovering each time to prevent the Rangers from scoring. But there was no recovery to be had when Mitch Moreland hit a line-drive home run to right field in the 4th inning, putting the Rangers on the board and tying the game at 1.
Things got much worse for Colon and the A's in the 5th inning. Texas' first baserunner came as a gift: a fielding error on a comebacker to Colon put Craig Gentry aboard. Jurickson Profar doubled him home, giving Texas a lead that it would never give back. But just for the sake of frustrating the A's and their fans, the Rangers kept going. Ian Kinsler hit another comebacker, a line drive off of Colon's hand (he stayed in the game after throwing a few warmup pitches). The ball ricocheted to Donaldson, who didn't have a play. Profar scored on an Adrian Beltre groundout, and the AJ Pierzynski single that followed brought home Kinsler, putting the Rangers' lead at 4-1.
Michael Choice picked up his first Major League hit in the bottom of the 5th on a softly-hit ground ball towards third base that Perez fielded. The pitcher's throw pulled Moreland ever-so-slightly off the bag at first base, and Choice was credited with a single, but Crisp and Donaldson failed to advance him. The September callup also made a fantastic sliding catch on a fast-sinking line drive from Alex Rios with two outs in the bottom of the 5th. All in all, a very good debut in the field, and a solid second game offensively from Choice.
Jerry Blevins came in to work the 6th, which was notable only for an absolutely phenomenal play by Josh Donaldson, definitely his best of the year and potentially the A's defensive play of the season. With one out and a runner on first, David Murphy hit a pop up that carried towards the tarp down the third base line. Josh Donaldson chased it down, dived over the tarp to make the catch, and immediately tumbled into the space between the wall in front of the field box seats but behind the tarp. It was almost certainly the play of the year for the A's and easily the highlight of the night — if you didn't see it, check it out here. It was so good that Susan Slusser gave it its own Drumbeat article. Ray Fosse described it well: "up, over, and in between." Jerry Blevins liked it, too:
Jerry Blevins says Donaldson's catch is the best he's ever seen. "I've watched it 50 times already," he says. He was on the mound for it.
Jerry Blevins says Donaldson's catch is the best he's ever seen. "I've watched it 50 times already," he says. He was on the mound for it.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) September 4, 2013
The Rangers would tack on another run in the 8th with an Alex Rios home run to center field off of Jesse Chavez. Evan Scribner and Pedro Figueroa also made appearances in relief, with Scribner throwing two scoreless innings despite allowing two walks and a hit.
There was some drama in the ninth inning when the A's brought the tying run to the on-deck circle — they should've actually had the tying run at the plate, but Chris Young was rung up by home plate umpire Chris Guccione on a Joe Nathan slider that clearly missed low by about six inches (edit: PitchFX says that it was a strike....but seriously, watch the replay. It wasn't a good call). Young did a great job holding up on a nasty pitch with the count full, but he didn't get rewarded. It really has just been that kind of year for him. Eric Sogard also bunted the first pitch he saw from Nathan with two runners on and one out, pointlessly advancing the runners but getting thrown out by several steps at first. He was bunting for a hit, but all the same, you'd better execute if you're going to try and bunt in that situation, and Sogard didn't come close.
Crisp struck out with two runners on to end the game, but on the plus side, the A's did make Nathan throw 27 pitches. He'll almost certainly still be available tomorrow, but in a tight division race this late in the season, it's good to have your opponent's closer available as little as possible.
Bob Melvin, as I wrote about in the preview, decided to ignore Martin Perez's reverse righty/lefty split and go with a righty-stacked lineup that fared fine against a guy who's particularly hard on right-handers — Cespedes, Callaspo and Donaldson all went 2-4, and Nate Freiman picked up a hit. I'd like to see Perez, a southpaw, face left-handed batters if we see him again in our next series against Texas, given that righties' wOBA against Perez is about 60 points lower than that of left-handed batters. Right now, if nothing changes, we'd see him in the final meeting of the year between the two squads on Sunday 9/15 in Arlington.
Oakland will get a chance to make up for the loss and tie Texas for the AL West lead once again tomorrow afternoon. Jarrod Parker gets the start for the A's, and he hasn't taken a loss in his last 17 opportunities, or since May 22. He's opposed by Yu Darvish, who the A's have actually seen some success against this year. First pitch is at 12:35pm, and baseballgirl will have your game thread.