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Game #161: Athletics 4, Rangers 5, down to three chances to win the Wild Card

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Robinson Chirinos celebrates a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
Robinson Chirinos celebrates a two-run home run in the seventh inning.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

I am afraid any celebration will have to wait until ... tonight? Tomorrow? Monday? Next year? Jeff Samardzija conceded an uncharacteristic five runs in seven innings pitched. This was not, however, a feckless offense; the A's were scoring, and were getting good drives. They had 14 hits tonight and many more deep drives, but untimely double plays and outstanding catcher defense from Robinson Chirinos caused them to fall short.

These are the four three ways to get through to the Wild Card game Tuesday:

  1. The Mariners lose to the Angels tonight.
  2. The A's beat the Rangers Sunday.
  3. The Mariners lose to the Angels Sunday.
  4. The A's beat the Mariners Monday.

The Athletics are waiting in the visiting locker room watching the tied game ongoing in Seattle. The Brut is on ice.

Too many mistakes for Shark tonight

Jeff Samardzija is on his way to a historic strikeout-to-walk ratio for a starting pitching in the Major Leagues, but sometimes I think his lack of walks causes him to give up more mistake pitches. We saw this in the Astros series when Samardzija elected to challenge Chris Carter instead of devastate him with a splitter out of the zone. Tonight, he struck out nine Rangers over seven innings, but conceded two home runs.

The Rangers tagged Samardzija early for two runs in the first inning. Elvis Andrus singled and advanced to second on a stolen base, and Odor scored Andrus on a single and reached second on Reddick's throw home. Adrian Beltre drove in Odor with another single. All of these were not major mistakes, but they happened rather quickly.

With a 2-1 deficit, Samardzija gave up a solo home run to Jake Smolinski, his third of his career and second off the Athletics.

With a 3-2 deficit, Samardzija gave up a two-out utter mistake fastball down the middle to Robinson Chirinos that scored two more.

Donaldson: Who needs knees?

Josh Donaldson was still hobbling around the bases after sustaining an injury in Friday night's game. In the first inning, however, he didn't have to worry about how fast he moved around the bases when he hit a solo home run to give the A's the 1-0 advantage early.

In the second, Donaldson made an outstanding dive to his left of Jim Adduci's groundball, got up and gunned down Adduci for the first out of the inning. Stephen Vogt had a great stretch to complete the putout.

Donaldson also limped home from second base on a Josh Reddick single to right in the eighth inning.

A's keep fighting

There's a sign in the right field bleachers at the Coliseum urging the Green and Gold to "KEEP FIGHTING." And so they did. Besides the first, the Rangers could not manage a shutdown inning after scoring in the fourth and the seventh.

In the top of the fifth, Josh Reddick singled and reached third on Jed Lowrie's single. Emergency starter Scott Baker left after those two batters in favor of the slinging left-hander Alex Claudio. Freiman swung at Claudio's first offering and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Reddick scored from third.

In the top of the eighth, Jonny Gomes hit a nice single to left. Donaldson singled as well.

And then Texas interim manager Tim Bogar made the most rookie of rookie manager mistakes. With Derek Norris standing in the on deck circle, Tim Bogar went out to pull his left-handed reliever, Neal Cotts, in favor of right-hander Ramon Mendez. What Bogar failed to do was wait for Norris to be officially announced as the pinch-hitter for Brandon Moss. Instead, as soon as Bogar lifted his hand for the reliever, Norris simply left the on deck circle, and Moss prepared to stand in against the right-handed Mendez.

Moss ran the count full and fought hard to stay in the battle, but struck out swinging on a changeup on Mendez's eighth pitch. Out of lefties, Mendez, Texas' eighth pitcher of the night, faced Josh Reddick.

Reddick singled, scoring Gomes. 5-3 Texas.

Jed Lowrie singled, scoring Donaldson. 5-4 Texas.

Alberto Callaspo came to bat. Yes, that Alberto Callaspo.

But in fact, Callaspo had an excellent night. In his first plate appearance in the seventh inning, he hit a hard liner that center fielder Leonys Martin had to make an excellent play on. Here in the eighth, Callaspo got almost all of Mendez's 95 mph fastball and sent it towards right field, where Jake Smolinski caught it at the wall to end the inning.

The A's were still in it in the ninth after Fernando Abad and Dan Otero worked a scoreless bottom of the eighth. With one out, Nick Punto blooped the grittiest 0-2 single that ever gritted, and Billy Burns came in into pinch run. Burns was given one job, steal second base.

He almost did it too. It took an absolutely dead perfect throw from Robinson Chirinos to shortstop Elvis Andrus catching the ball at the same time he applied the tag to Burns' hand. Burns, it seems, looked a little too long at home plate watching for a popped bunt from Coco Crisp, and it was all the difference.

Coco Crisp worked a walk, and Jonny Gomes had to face the right-handed Neftali Feliz, with the A's bench emptied. Gomes could only strike out swinging, and that was the game.

And so the A's must wait. And hope. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Monday. Maybe next year.

The A's play at noon and the Mariners at 1:00. No matter what happens, we'll have the A's game for you on Sunday. And don't forget to see if the Tigers and Royals will be forced to play an AL Central Tiebreaker. Those games start at 10 and 11 in the morning, respectively.

Your Game #161 final: Athletics 4, Rangers 5