It wasn't clean, but it will work. That was my take on today's game and especially the efforts of A's pitchers, specifically Sean Manaea and Ryan Madson. Manaea worked in and out of trouble in his 6 2/3 innings and Madson had an all too Balfour-esque 9th inning, but a barrage of long balls from the Oakland offense gave the A's the cushion they needed to survive.
Coco got things started quickly. On the 2nd pitch of the game, the veteran blistered a groundball just barely fair down the first base line into the corner, giving him ample time to make it to third base for a leadoff triple. Lowrie had no time for a teAse and lobbed a ball to deep right field - it was a few feet short of a home run, but easily long enough for a sac fly to bring Coco home and put the A’s up 1-0. One out later, Darvish threw the definition of a hanger to mighty mighty Khris Davis, who easily blasted home run #24 of the season to left field and put the A’s up 2-0 in the 1st inning.
It looked like the A's were poised to continue beating up on the otherwise excellent Yu Darvish, who came into today's game with a 1-8 record and a 4.94 ERA against Oakland. However, 8 batters in a row were retired after the Davis home run. Davis came through again in his next at-bat with an easy double to right center field, then advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Vogt and Smolinski had ugly strikeouts to bail Darvish out.
This was the theme for the offense today against Darvish - impatient at-bats where they frequently bailed him out even as he alternated hangers and pitches well out of the zone. The A's worked ZERO walks against Darvish. With the exception of a couple of long at-bats by Healy and Reddick, the A’s were aggressive and swung at borderline pitches and sometimes pitches well out of the zone (Vogt x3, Davis, Coco). There was too much chasing of pitcher's pitches and it seems like sometimes the A's were caught sitting fastball even when Darvish generally throws anything but.
Meanwhile, Manaea was working his way in and out of trouble almost every inning against a potent Rangers offense. The 11 hits he gave up probably sounds slightly worse than it looked - he gave up some fairly hard contact, but literally all but one of those 11 hits went oppo or up the middle, so he wasn't letting them get the barrel on the ball too much. To go with those 11 hits, Manaea notched a career-high 9 strikeouts and, equally impressively, gave up 0 walks. Manaea hasn’t walked a batter since July 5 vs. the Twins, 26.2 innings and counting.
He gave a double to the sensational Jurickson Profar on a fastball outside of the strike zone in the first inning, but Manaea battled back and induced a pop out and then a sloppy strikeout by Adrian Beltre. Manaea was masterful against Beltre, dropping a changeup perfectly on the inside corner for strike 2, then coming back a couple of pitches later with another changeup well below the knees to fan the A’s killer.
Manaea threw two perfect sliders in a row to strike out Odor in 2nd, but then gave up some more solid contact. Ryan Rua and Elvis Andrus hit back-to-back sharp groundball singles to right field, but the A’s caught a break and Andrus’s ball hit Rua for the second out of the inning. Manaea gave up yet more hard contact to Nomar Mazara, but again he came up with good stuff when he needed it to strike out Bobby Wilson on three pitches and end the inning.
The miraculously excellent Ian Desmond hit a 2-out double in the 3rd inning. Surprise, surprise, Adrian Beltre came next and did damage with a well-hit single to halve the Rangers’ deficit, 2-1.
Starting the 4th inning, Semien had some difficulty with a play we’ve seen him struggle with all season - a bloop to shallow left field that was overhead. He caught the ball but was unable to squeeze it, allowing Rua to reach base safely. Fortunately, Andrus seems to have been wronged in a previous life by Rua because he AGAIN got him out, this time in a double play.
Manaea was having trouble putting the Rangers away with 2 outs. He got two easy strikeouts to start the 5th, but then gave up a single followed by a home run to Ian Desmond to put the Rangers up 3-2. Beltre followed that with yet another single before Manaea was able to escape the inning.
Finally, Manaea came through with a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th, easily his best inning of the day. He induced two strikeouts and a pop-out and did an excellent job of locating his pitches. He got a couple more outs in the 7th before giving up a single and getting pulled for Ryan Dull, who came in and shut the door as he is wont to do.
After Keone Kela shut down the A's in the 7th inning, Matt Bush came out in the 8th, and oh boy did his outing go south quickly. Healy hit a single back up the middle against a 99mph fastball to set Coco up for a huge 2-run home run to the short porch in right field. Matt Bush provided the power and the location with another 99mph inside and Coco just turned on it and gave the A's a 4-3 lead. It was a beautiful piece of hitting and a terrible piece of pitching. Reddick continued to produce with a single, and then Khris Davis, our secret weapon against the Rangers, earned himself a multi-home run game with a laser to right field to put the A's up 6-3. This guy SLAYS the Rangers in the same way that Beltre owns us - I guess even moreso. Davis is batting .419 and has hit 7 home runs against them this season, counting tonight. It's absolutely unreal. He is our ringer.
Dull came back out after a long top of the 8th to face three crucial batters (Beltre, Odor, Rua), and he did so efficiently. Coco even made a couple of good running catches!
Unfortunately Ryan Madson was not as effective in the 9th - he gave up a couple of singles to make the score 6-4, and gave up some DEEP fly balls that looked for sure like game-tying home runs. It was ugly and Balfour-esque and I'm sick of seeing him in the 9th, but it worked and I can breathe again.
Depsite Ryan Madson's best efforts, the A's had a great series win against the Rangers. That's 4 series wins in a row and a whole bunch of watchable, downright exciting baseball. It feels good, doesn't it? The A's have a day off and then are in Cleveland for a 3-game set starting Friday at 4:10.