Game 13 was played on a damp night that didn’t help the batted balls carry, but that wasn’t the reason that this was a night of only three hits for the A’s. The green and gold made A.J. Griffin look better than he was tonight—though he did pitch well and earned the win. Second, Jharel Cotton looked strong, much stronger than the box score reflects. Finally, a couple of solid hits by the Rangers combined with three walks to put the A’s away in the fifth inning. Despite a short spurt in the 8th, the A’s never had a chance.
So let’s start at the beginning. Today’s game started with us holding our breath. Ranger’s leadoff hitter Carlos Gomez battled Cotton and should have been out on pitch #7. Definitely a bad call—which is not something I usually write, but it truly was. Gomez took advantage of his second chance and picked up the first hit of the game on pitch number 10. Gomez then advanced on an infield hit by Andrus (that should have been challenged but wasn’t) and thus two up, two on. Next, 21 year-old Nomar Mazara took it the opposite way with a solid hit to the wall that scored Gomez. But Cotton rebounded like a veteran pitcher. He came back by striking out Napoli, getting Odor to pop up his slider (caught on the mound by Plouffe) and then getting Lucroy out on a ground ball 4-3.
Until the 5th inning, Cotton settled in and looked strong. REALLY strong. Innings 2, 3, and 4 were all three up, three down. He mixed his pitches well, throwing quite a few successful cutters and mixing in fastballs, curves and changeups. This young man has an impressive arsenal. Innings 3 and 4 were both six-pitch innings and Cotton was the one in control. In the 5th, however, Cotton was undone by his three walks, all of them crossing the plate along with Carlos Gomez who scored after his double. He walked Choo and Gallo who both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Profar. Gomez doubled into center field and advanced to third on Rajai Davis’ throw to Rosales who let it go through to the next cutoff man, Lowrie, who wasn’t in position. [Note: Davis was charged with an error, the 10th straight for the A’s and 16th total in 13 games.] Despite striking out Andrus on a 90 mph cutter, Mazara was then intentionally walked, stole second, and with runners on second and third—Mike Napoli picked up two RBI’s with his double. 5-0 Rangers.
Despite this, Cotton was allowed to begin the 6th where he was able to get Lucroy to ground out, 6-3, but walked Shin-Soo Choo for the second time. Melvin had enough and called on Daniel Coulombe who ended the inning by coming in to put away Gallo (4-3) and Profar (F9).
Montas came in for an excellent top of the 7th. A 97mph heater had Carlos Gomez go down swinging. Andrus and Mazara followed with ground balls to Plouffe who made nice, quick moves and hard throws to edge out the runners.
It wasn’t until the 9th when the Rangers made much noise again. Liam Hendriks replaced Montas who had faced 8 batters, gave up one hit and a walk, and struck out two. Hendriks walked the first two batters he faced, allowed a wild pitch and then base hit to put the Rangers ahead 7-0. From the 5th inning, the A’s were doomed because the offensive bats couldn’t manufacture rallies, let alone runs.
Unlike the commentators, however, I did not think A.J. Griffin was really as good as the Athletics made him look. Grant you, Griffin changed speeds well and moved the ball around. So why say Griffin wasn’t as good as he appears in the box score? A prime example is the third inning when Maxwell, Rosales and Davis ALL went down looking for a 1-2-3 inning and 3 backward K’s for Griffin. Grant you, Rosales would have had to reach quite a bit, but it was there. Rajai saw that low fastball coming because the call was in the middle of being made and he was bending over and unleashing a shin guard. Ok, ok. All of that said, Griffin’s 12-6 curve looked stellar in his later innings including his 66mph breaking ball that sat Rosales down in the 6th.
Six complete innings was all Griffin was allowed as he pitched a season high 91 pitches as Manager Jeff Banister continues to take it easy with Griffin who is finally back from injuries. With 1 walk and 8 strikeouts on a one hitter, it’s a solid outing and performance for Griffin and he deserved the win. That said, he had some help by our offense on those strikeouts.
Finally, it should be noted that there was a second A’s hit in the 8th inning by Trevor Plouffe. Healy then made some noise as he pinch hit for Bruce Maxwell and took it down the left field line for a double. An exciting two-out rally beginning, alas Jaff Decker—in for Adam Rosales—ended the inning with a hard hit ball to shortstop Elvis Andrus for the final putout in the 8th. In the 9th it was three up, three down with Rajai Davis going 5-3, Matt Joyce striking out, and Jed Lowrie—who turned 33 today—ending the game as he was thrown out on a grounder to second.
So, bottom line on this game: Jharel Cotton looked strong and has such a promising repertoire. Had the Athletic bats found more contact along with 10 less strikeouts, we would have had a game. But it didn’t go that way tonight. Despite that, Cotton was a highlight tonight.