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Game #143: A’s outslug Rangers in seesaw affair

Both teams hit three homers, but Oakland won 8-6.

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s took an early lead in the 1st inning on Saturday. Then the Rangers answered back and built their own lead. Then the A’s tied it, and put together a new lead. Then Texas tied it again. Finally, the A’s took one more lead in the 8th, and this time it stuck for an 8-6 victory.

*** Click here to revisit today’s Game Thread! ***

Offense was the name of the game for the second straight day in the Coliseum, as the A’s matched their eight runs from Friday’s series opener. They got to work right away with a two-out rally in the 1st inning — Jed Lowrie drew a walk, and Khris Davis hit his MLB-leading 41st homer.

Just like they’d done on Friday, Oakland had jumped out to an early lead.

But then!

The Rangers came back. A’s starter Edwin Jackson was not his sharpest, and he didn’t last long. Adrian Beltre swatted a homer in the 2nd inning, Nomar Mazara lined a two-run double in the 3rd, and Jurickson Profar led off the 4th with a dinger to knock out Jackson. His final line was ugly, arguably his worst of the season: 3 ip, 4 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 5 hits, 2 HR. Halfway through the afternoon it was 4-2 Texas.

But then!

The A’s came back. They got something brewing in the 5th inning, with two on and two out, and Jed Lowrie delivered his signature move: the clutch double. It was a majestic blast, more like a homer that bounced off the wall, and it drove in both runners to tie the game.

From there, Oakland began building a new lead. Chad Pinder got the job started with a solo homer in the 6th.

In the 7th, Ramon Laureano led off with a walk, then came around on a double by Stephen Piscotty. Just like that, it was 6-4 A’s.

But then!

The Rangers came back. Oakland’s bullpen has shown some cracks lately, mostly centered around Fernando Rodney. After Jackson’s departure they got scoreless innings from Shawn Kelley, Cory Gearrin, Liam Hendriks, and Lou Trivino, but Rodney couldn’t keep the line moving in the 8th.

Rodney retired his first batter but then allowed a single to Mazara, and Beltre followed with his second homer of the game. After throwing 11 scoreless innings in his first 11 appearances with the A’s, Rodney has now given up runs in each of his last four outings.

But then!

The A’s came back, or rather, retook the lead. Matt Olson didn’t start the game against Texas lefty Yohander Mendez, but he entered in the 7th as a defensive replacement. He came up for his first at-bat leading off the 8th, and on the first pitch he saw he attempted a bunt to beat the shift. It’s exactly what we’re always pining to see lefty hitters do — take advantage of the wide-open left side of the infield and pick up a free single.

Unfortunately, Olson’s bunt went foul. It all worked out, though, because on the next pitch he did this.

There’s no shift that can defend that. It was Olson’s 25th, which sets a new career high.

The A’s weren’t done. A couple batters later, Jonathan Lucroy poked his second single of the night, and Matt Chapman followed by ripping an RBI double to right. Oakland led 8-6, with elite closer Blake Treinen coming in for the save.

But then!

Just kidding. Treinen went 1-2-3 in the 9th with a pair of strikeouts, needing just 13 pitches to breeze through the side. He did it in 11 pitches on Friday, though. Slipping.

Ramon Laureano has been one of the biggest stories on the A’s lately, but he was relatively quiet in this game: 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Even still, though, he managed to contribute. His walk in the 7th sparked a rally and led to a crucial run, and he also made a big play on defense. After Mazara’s two-run double in the 3rd, which gave Texas their first lead, Beltre smoked a ball to the wall in right-center. Laureano tracked it down in style.

Statcast judged it at a 53% chance of being caught, so it wasn’t a play that always gets made. It saved a run, and it also halted the Rangers’ rally before it got out of hand.

He made another hustle play in the 5th that may have saved another run. With Shin-Soo Choo on 1st, Laureano sprinted and slid to cut off a ball in the gap before it could reach the wall. Choo held at third and was later stranded there, but it’s possible and maybe even likely that he would have scored if that hit had gone all the way through.

Virtually everyone chipped in on this day. Khrush, Pinder, and Olson homered. Lowrie, Chapman, and Piscotty had RBI doubles. Lucroy singled twice and scored both times. Laureano made an impact with his glove. A bunch of relievers put up zeroes, led by Treinen. It was a good day.

The A’s are now 86-57, but unfortunately they’re not getting any help in the standings. The Astros and Yankees keep winning too, so Oakland is still 3½ back in the races for both the division and the first Wild Card.

On the bright side, though, the Mariners fell to 7½ back for the second Wild Card with just three weeks to play. That means we’re at a point where we can start talking about a Magic Number. The A’s number is 13 to clinch a playoff spot. Holy Toledo.