Last September, the A’s won six of the eight series they played, finishing the season off strong. The team have a good chance of topping that performance this year, with tonight’s dominant 12-3 victory already sealing their sixth series win.
Tonight, the A’s showed once again why the Rangers are their favorite opponent. Time after time, they’ve made the Rangers pitching staff look like their new batting practice assistants. The victims tonight were Brock Burke, Luke Farrell, Jonathan Hernandez, and former Athletic Shawn Kelly.
Poor Brock. Only five starts into his major league career, just eight days ago, the A’s shot his ERA from a respectable 3.52 up to an ugly 5.19. Six runs on three home runs gave Burke one of his first tastes of major league failure, perhaps providing a valuable lesson that he can build off in the future. One start later, the A’s made him question his whole career.
Burke could only throw 39 pitches, and allow five runs, before the Oakland batters put him away for the night. After giving up an RBI single to the ninth man, Josh Phegley, Chris Woodward decided that the A’s simply had his number. Another time through the lineup wasn’t going to do him any good. ERA update: 7.43. You’ll get ‘em next year, Brock!
Unfortunately for Texas, his next two replacements didn’t pitch much better, as neither could get through a full inning of work, rendering this a true bullpen game for the Rangers. It wasn’t until A’s arch nemesis Adrian Sampson entered the game did they achieve some stability.
On the flip side, the A’s were having the time of their life, with each batter getting what seemed like a dozen plate appearances. And they made the most of them, reaching base 49% of the time (23 out of 47 chances). The top performer of the night was easily Marcus Semien, who reached base a whopping SIX times — two singles, one walk, and a solo homer. With Mike Trout looking vulnerable in the MVP race, Semien is doing absolutely everything he can to make his case.
Other big nights belonged to Mark Canha, Sheldon Neuse, and Josh Phegley, Canha stayed hot with his second straight game with a home run and three runs scored. Neuse made his case for a playoff roster spot with another three-hit night — he really seems to like those. Meanwhile, Phegley is pairs of hits and RBIs will help him keep his share of playing time in the face of The Rise of Murphy.
On the pitching end, there was just as much good news to report. Sean Manaea, who has somehow emerged from his long absence an even better pitcher than he was, earned his third win in a row. Wait, hasn’t he only pitched four games this year? Forget Luzardo and Puk, Manaea is the present and the future! The crazy thing is that he should be 4-0 right now if the bullpen hadn’t blown his lead against the Yankees in his first start back.
Though Manaea faded a bit towards the end, his performance tonight solidified his hold on a playoff rotation spot, hopefully for Game 1 of the ALDS. He couldn’t quite finish six innings, but J.B. Wendleken — who, I noticed, entered to the modern classic, “Rednecker” by Hardy, which you should definitely check out — cleaned up for him. Jesus Luzardo, Ryan Buchter, and Daniel Mengden each followed them up with mostly clean innings and secured the A’s 94th win.
Not sure why BoMel only let Luzardo get one inning tonight instead of his accustomed piggyback start, but hey, it worked out. Maybe they’re resting him for the playoffs or maybe they want him to operate as a more traditional multi-inning reliever who can pitch 2-3 innings every other night or so, a la Yusmeiro Petit. Hopefully, we get a clearer view of what his playoff role will be as the season winds down.
As I mentioned, this is the A’s sixth consecutive series win, meaning they remain undefeated in September thus far. With just a two-game stop in Anaheim and a four-game series in Seattle, the A’s might plow through the last month of the season 8-for-8 and enter the playoffs the hottest team in baseball.