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Game #65: Rangers Burn Blackburn and Dull to Even Series

MLB: Game One-Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers took the first game of today’s double header at Globe Life Park in Arlington today by a score of 10-5. The game featured a duel between two freshly called-up starters: Paul Blackburn from AAA Las Vegas for the A’s faced off against lefty Joe Palumbo, who came straight from AA ball to make his major league debut with the Rangers. Texas got the better of the contest with 11 hits, led by a home run and three RBIs each from right fielder Nomar Mazara and catcher Tim Federowicz.

(Closes left eye) Game thread one? (Closes right eye) Game thread two?

Palumbo came out strong against the A’s. He struck out red hot A’s shortstop Marcus Semien in three pitches to open the frame. Mark Canha, starting in left field for the A’s, followed up with a sharp double to Rangers left fielder Hunter Pence, but Palumbo remained calm and quickly ended the inning, striking out third baseman Matt Chapman and getting a first pitch fly out from designated hitter Khris Davis.

Paul Blackburn, in his 2019 debut for the A’s, struggled mightily in the bottom of the first. He opened the frame with a walk to Rangers designated hitter and all-around tormenter-of-Athletics Shin-Soo Choo. The Rangers put three more on base in the inning and stranded only one, running at will on Blackburn with three stolen bases as the inning ended with the Rangers up by three.

Palumbo continued to impress through three shutout innings, striking out four and walking just two. Meanwhile, Blackburn’s trial by fire continued. Paul allowed the Rangers’ leadoff hitters on base in each of his three innings pitched, and the Rangers added on in the third when right fielder Nomar Mazara hit a two run homer to center field. Blackburn would not return in the fourth, completing his appearance with five hits and five runs allowed, four strikeouts, and three walks; he also hit Hunter Pence with a pitch in the first inning. The first third of the game ended with the Rangers up, 5-0.

The A’s batters finally managed to make Polumbo look like a minor leaguer and get back in the game in the top of the fourth. With two out, Matt Olson put the A’s on the board with a two run shot to right center.

Polumbo hit A’s second baseman Chad Pinder to issue the only free pass the Rangers newcomer would give away today. With Pinder on second, and Laureano on first following a single of his own, Nick Hundley went down on a swing and exited the game.

Josh Phegley, suddenly the A’s only healthy catcher in Arlington, came in for Hundley and brought the A’s a much needed boost with his bat. He swatted a sharp line drive to left field and brought both Pinder and Laureano home to get the A’s right back in the game as the inning ended with the Rangers up by just one. Palumbo would not return, posting a final line that included six hits and four runs allowed with four strikeouts.

Right handed reliever Ryan Dull, freshly recalled just yesterday in place of Daniel Mengden, came in for Blackburn at the top of the fourth. Dull was not sharp today, as he enabled the Rangers to double their run total in all of two innings. The first three batters he faced all got on base in the fourth, as the Rangers added on a run with an RBI double from shortstop Elvis Andrus. However, it was in the fifth that Dull was more fiercely blunted: the Rangers got eight batters to the plate in the inning and scored four more runs, though only three of them were charged to Dull. Matt Olson made an uncharacteristic throwing error on a double play bid that allowed Rangers third baseman Asdrúbal Cabrera to score the first run of the inning. Catcher Tim Federowicz, batting ninth, brought in the remaining three Rangers runs with a three run blast to left center field. The inning finally ended with the Rangers up 10-5.

A few somewhat quieter innings ensued as both teams enjoyed effective long relief performances. Left hander Jeffrey Springs put up three solid innings for the Rangers, carrying them through the seventh inning with just one run allowed on a home run from Phegley. Let’s have a look at that blast to cheer ourselves up after this rather morose affair:

Aaron Brooks made his third appearance for the A’s since being demoted to the bullpen after his last start on May 11 against Cleveland. Brooks kept a leadoff hitter from reaching base for the first time of the day for the A’s, opening the sixth by striking out Pence.

The A’s would not need to tax their bullpen any further in the first game of today’s double header, as a babyfaced Phillips Valdez, the second Rangers pitcher to make a Major League debut in the game, managed to hold the A’s scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings despite issuing two walks in the latter frame. The Rangers won by five in 193 minutes as both teams prepared for the second contest, which is scheduled to begin at 6:05 PDT. The A’s, with Chris Bassitt slated as starting pitcher, must win tonight to keep alive their hopes of winning the series and pulling even with the Rangers in the AL West tomorrow.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly

  • Marcus Semien stayed hot, easily lost though that was in all of the less favorable facets of the game. Semien went 2-for-4 with a walk, albeit stranded each time he reached base today.
  • Matt Chapman is 0-for-14 in his last three games, yet it feels like he’s been cold for an eternity because his success on both sides of the ball is so essential to the A’s, and he really has looked terrible at the plate these last few games, striking out seven times. Lest we forget, however: Matt went 6-for-16 with a double and a home run in the three games prior to this mini slump. Let’s hope the “comes in threes” maxim means his 0-fer will end tonight.
  • Paul Blackburn had a 5.46 FIP in AAA before coming up to start today’s game. Las Vegas is a tough place to pitch, as is Arlington, but it’s hard to extract much optimism from today’s performance from Blackburn, who struggled with his control and was mostly topping out with velocity in the high 80s. Let us pray the cavalry is near: