You guys! The A's won a game for me! That really never happens! And it did! Did you see the bullpen!? Did you see the offense!? Did you see that even though the A's technically have an error, it will more than likely be taken away once Beltre makes a phone call and that could mean no errors!? Most importantly, the A's win a division game, take the first game from the Rangers, are single-digit wins away from both the Division lead and .500, just one game out of fourth place, and more importantly, not in the basement of the American League! That's a good night. You know what else is great? That the offense earned Jesse Chavez a win in a game in which he did not have his A game.
There was nothing particularly sharp about this game, including both starting pitchers. Chavez made it through only five innings (thanks in part to being squeezed early), and he wasn't great, but just marginally better than Chi Chi Gonzalez, who lasted into the sixth inning, allowing eight hits and six runs to the A's. The fourth inning was Chavez' Achilles heel, as he gave up four, but the A's tagged Gonzalez for four of their own in the fifth inning in quite an impressive comeback, even for a game in Arlington.The night belonged to Josh Phegley, who hit a home run and a two-out double, knocking in three of the A's runs. Ben Zobrist homered in the sixth inning to give the A's the eventually winning and insurance runs, but really, the whole gang got into this one.
After Chavez started the game dancing through raindrops while fighting the strike zone, the Rangers took the early 1-0 lead in the second inning on a frustrating play. He allowed a lead-off single and a ground ball to move the runner to third, but even though he struck out the hitter for the second out, the run scored on a passed ball during the at-bat. However, a subsequent walk and a double did not score another run, and perhaps we felt good about the 1-0 deficit.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez was nearly perfect once through the A's lineup; he retired eight in a row before surrendering a single to Marcus Semien, a single to Billy Burns, and a single to Eric Sogard to tie the game. The inning ended as Burns was thrown out going to third on the play. The A's took a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning as Josh Phegley hit a solo home run, but Jesse Chavez would have exactly the opposite of a shutdown inning as he took the mound. In all its glory: Single, Home Run, Double, Double, Sac Fly, Strike Out, Single, Strike Out. When the dust cleared, the A's were trailing 5-2 and Chavez was done for the game.
The 2015 Oakland Athletics of yesteryear...errr...last month, would have rolled over and allowed a dozen more runs, just for good measure. But not Tuesday's magical Athletics of late June. Zobrist walked to lead off the sixth inning, and with one out, Billy Butler was hit by a pitch. Ike Davis doubled in Zobrist and put Butler on third. With two outs, in a huge at-bat, Phegley had his second good swing of the night and doubled both runs in to tie the game and end Gonzalez' night. Not to be outdone, Marcus Semien put together a terrific at-bat and also doubled, scoring Phegley easily to give the A's the 6-5 lead, and turned a sure loss into a chance for a win for Jesse Chavez.
The A's turned the sixth inning over to Evan Scribner, who responded with a perfect one, two three, thanks in part to a nice catch by Billy Burns. And the A's, because who needs more runs in Arlington, amirite?, added some insurance thanks to a walk to Sogard and a home run by Zobrist to increase the lead to 8-5. Eric O'Flaherty got the first two outs of the seventh, but an "error" by Lawrie (it wasn't) and a single sent him packing in favor of Fernando Rodriguez, who caused the only blemish on the bullpen's four innings tonight; a RBI double to narrow the lead to 8-6. He would get out of the inning and would record the first out of the eighth inning before walking a batter and being replaced by Drew Pomeranz, obviously going for the save with the lack of Clippard. Pomeranz walked his first batter, putting the go-ahead run at the plate, but a strike out and a ground out took us to the ninth inning; the A's clinging to a 2-run lead.
Pomeranz took the first batter Beltre to a full count before forcing him to single, in a move I quite appreciated. Nothing grinds my gears faster than a lead-off walk in a two-run game. But Moreland, representing the tying run, bounced into a double-play, a gold mine for Pom and A's fans, and limped off the field. Pomeranz struck out Elvis Andrus to end the game and earn his first save. It was glorious, glorious work by the bullpen, holding the Rangers to one run in four innings in Arlington. Hell, holding a lead for four innings is good work by this crew, and they shined today. Meanwhile, don't look now, but the A's offense is scoring runs and they hit Gonzalez hard tonight.
I'm going to tentatively say that we'll talk on Friday night when the A's take the next two from the Rangers, because nothing would be better than a series where the A's beat the Royals over the weekend to put themselves firmly back in contention, but let's not jump the gun. The A's are winning, and they won tonight. One game at a time. They are nine games under .500 with a game to win tomorrow. We'll see you back here at the same time tomorrow where Kendall Graveman takes his shot.