So it seems like all anyone could talk about last year was the surprise of the season; the 2018 Oakland Athletics, who shocked the league, won nearly all their games from late-June on, and stormed the playoffs with nary a starting pitcher in sight. But more than that was the way they won; coming back from sometimes-ridiculous deficits to secure the wins; banking hard on bullpen battles instead of starting pitching match-ups. Tonight was one of those nights, an early-April callback to those hot summer nights when the A’s just won; improbably, impossibly, gorgeously, excitedly, just won. And no matter what was going on in our personal lives, in the world; somehow it was all right for a moment as the sweet sweet strains of Celebration wafted through the TV into the summer air. But tonight, we tasted that in April, the 18th game of the season, on a Friday night, no less, as the A’s stormed back from a 6-1, 6th inning deficit to turn the tables on the Rangers in an 8-6 win in the opener to run their winning streak to four, and Khris Davis’ home run streak to three straight games; 5 home runs in 3 games, to be exact.
Let’s just say that my quip about Mike Fiers lowering his ERA was not on point in his start tonight; he finished five innings; true, but he allowed seven hits, six runs (two home runs) and a walk. I suppose the silver lining of striking out six in this start was that there were six fewer runs to be scored, but it was not his best start, and he dug the A’s a five-run deficit as late as the sixth inning. But the A’s—the A’s—laugh in the face of more-than-a-grand-slam deficits; they put up a four-spot that should have been five in the sixth, tied the game in the seventh (Laureano’s 3rd), took the lead in the eighth (Davis’ 10th), and for good measure, added an insurance run in the ninth. Treinen earned the save; Phegley had another brilliant game both at and behind the plate; the bullpen was its usual nails, the A’s win a stunner, and we all go happily into the weekend.
This game had no early indication; for more than half of it really, that it would be anything more than a quiet A’s loss, the one you take when you have a questionable-at-best starting pitching staff. The A’s offense, who had scored 13, 10 and 8 runs respectively in the final games of the Baltimore series, was quiet early against Drew Smyly, racking up five strikeouts in the first three innings. Texas, meanwhile, made a lot of early noise against Mike Fiers, right from the very first inning.
Back-to-back doubles by Choo and Forsythe scored the first Rangers’ run, and a single and groundout scored their second; sinking the A’s into a 2-0 deficit before the second inning. A two-out rally cut the deficit in half in the second, as Stephen Piscotty singled and Jurickson Profar doubled against his former team, or “ex-girlfriend” as the A’s announcers put it. Fair enough; I can get behind that analogy, basically he looks like he was dressed for the Oscars while the Rangers were shopping at the grocery store in their need-to-do-laundry pajamas, not even the cute ones.
Texas added a run in the fourth inning on a home run by Asdrubal Cabrera to extend the lead to 3-1, and no matter what the A’s tried in the fifth, it was thwarted. Just watch the replay of Elvis Andrus spinning from center field to throw out Profar at first.
And then things got real ugly, real fast in the fifth.
True, Matt Chapman would have a future TOOTBLAN that would cost the A’s a run (and the tie at the time), but lest we not forget, he saved a grand slam in the fifth. Fiers opened the inning allowing back-to-back singles before Chapman made a terrific stop and throw to second for the first out to keep the Texas runners at first and third instead of the bases loaded ahead of Elvis Andrus’ three-run home run that left the ballpark before anyone on the field even moved. That was a guaranteed grand slam without Chapman. Fiers, probably angry-face at his terrible start, struck out Mazara and Gallo to end the inning, and his night.
Give the 2019 A’s offense some credit. Even after putting up lofty numbers all this week, they still rallied for anther eight tonight, and nearly all of them would be needed to win. I admit, things didn’t look good for our heroes down 6-1 starting the sixth, but boy did they rally the rest of the game. Josh Phegley—and it cannot be stated enough—who is having a TERRIFIC start to the season, opened the sixth with a single, and both Marcus Semien and Mark Canha worked great at-bats, ending up with walks to load the bases with no one out.
The bases are loaded with no one out! It’s a promising start with Matt Chapman at the plate!
The game thread, which had lost a lot of its life—and visitors—in the last inning, perked up immediately, just in time for Matt Chapman to work a full count and smoke a single for two A’s runs, cutting the deficit to 6-3. And then the weirdest play of the night happened. Davis grounded out to third, the throw came home, hitting Canha, who scored, cutting the deficit to 6-4, but the resulting throw to third nabbed Matt Chapman, running from second to third with no one out.
Side note: If you pay for MLB.com radio on the app, I call you-know-what on 30 seconds of commercials to watch A’s video highlights. There is no way I should have to sit through commercials each time I want to watch a highlight in the in-game app.
Equally distressing was the A’s fifth run being thrown out at third with no one out, which means that the two-out Piscotty double that scored a hustling-all-the-way-likely-earning-that-run-himself Chad Pinder only brought the game to 6-5 instead of 6-6. But the 2019 A’s weren’t about to let that stand, so it became a moo point as Ramon Laureano, of the golden arm in center, homered to tie the game at 6 to open the seventh.
And now the A’s had what they strive for in every game; a battle of the bullpens. Yusmeiro Petit had already pitched the perfect sixth, and Lou Trivino pitched the seventh, with an assist from the catcher with the mostest; Josh Phegley, who threw out Shin-Soo Choo, despite already in full stride to second base by the time the ball even left Trivino’s hand.
And credit our announcers in the eighth, who reminded the world, and the Rangers’ pitchers, that Khris Davis owns the Rangers with the longball. No sooner had the words left their lips, lamenting that in three at-bats, Davis hadn’t yet homered, that Davis khrushed one deep into the Texas stadium to give the A’s the 7-6 lead.
Trivino opened the eighth with a strikeout and a double, before he was replaced by Ryan Buchter, who struck out Gallo with the runner on second. He, in turn, was replaced by Blake Treinen for the four-out save, who struck out Cabrera to end the eighth.
Jurickson “I’m so much happier with my new boo” Profar singled to open the ninth and the subsequent single by Laureano put two on for insurance for the A’s to start the inning. Red-hot Phegley was called to...bunt...and...well...frankly, he sucked at his two attempts, narrowly escaping outs or double plays, so with two strikes, he just decided to single in the A’s eighth run, and give Treinen the cushion he needed.
Treinen wasn’t perfect in the ninth; he allowed a one-out single and went 3-0 on Hunter Pence, and then he got a huge assist from Pence himself. On a 3-0 count—literally 3-0—and possibly ball four in play, he offhandedly swung at the 3-0 pitch, and popped up to Profar for the second out. An interesting decision to say the least, and one that worked out wildly in favor of the A’s. Treinen struck out Choo to end the game as the A’s take the first game of the series and look towards tomorrow for the series win.
We do it again tomorrow; 5:05PM our time; Estrada looking to bounce back against the Rangers and their starter, Sampson.
“Alexa, Play Celebration.”
LET’S GO OAK-LAND!