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Game #112: A’s sweep Rangers! Win finale 6-3

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Suddenly just 2 games back of Astros in AL West

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

How well are things going for the Oakland A’s right now? Not only have they won four games in a row, and eight out of 10, they’re even getting the benefit of replay reviews.

The A’s challenged two calls in the 1st inning and got both overturned, helping them post an early crooked number en route to a 6-3 victory over the Texas Rangers. The triumph completes a three-game weekend sweep of the Rangers at the Coliseum.

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

Oakland’s lineup is hot, and once again some of their newly acquired hitters were in the middle of the action. Starling Marte got things started by bunting for a single and then stealing second base — he was initially called out at second, but the A’s challenged and it was correctly overturned to safe.

That’s Marte’s seventh steal already in nine games for Oakland, and he’s yet to be caught. He basically willed himself into scoring position using nothing but pure hustle and IQ. Matt Olson walked to fill the empty first base, and then Jed Lowrie continued his RISP wizardry by knocking a single to drive Marte home.

Lowrie is batting .367 with runners in scoring position, which is Top 5 in the majors among qualified hitters.

Next up was another newcomer in Josh Harrison. He nearly ended the inning by grounding into a double play, but Texas flubbed the throw for the final out. Sean Murphy followed by ripping a double down the LF line, allowing Lowrie to score easily, and a hustling Harrison was hot on his heels trying to come all the way around from first base. Harrison was initially called out at the plate, but the A’s issued another challenge and got another favorable result — Harrison was safe and the run counted after all!

On review, it wasn’t actually close at all, and the umps seemed to know right away that they’d missed this one. Technically the catcher never even tagged Harrison, but rather clipped his dislodged helmet in the air behind him, and anyway by that point Harrison had already touched the plate long before the glove made any contact with anything.

Put it all together and it was quite a 1st inning. There was Marte bunting and stealing and being the perfect sparkplug, and Lowrie coming through with his usual Professional Hitter act. Both RBI hits were legit hard-hit balls, and an extra dash of hustle on the bases made the difference. Mix in two successful replay overturns and a defensive miscue by the opponent, all fully taken advantage of by Oakland, and it’s a whole lot of what we want to see for the rest of the year.

And that was just the 1st inning.

Oakland extended their lead in the 4th inning. Seth Brown, making his first start since returning from a brief trip down to the minors, led off by launching a solo homer. After that the A’s loaded the bases (including another single by Marte), and Lowrie drew a walk to force home a run — the second time today that he’d come up with runners in scoring position and delivered an RBI.

That dinger by Brown went 448 feet, making it the fourth-longest of the A’s season so far. He also holds the top spot, and his rate of 16.6 plate appearances per homer trails only Olson among Oakland hitters (and only barely trails Olson’s 16.1 mark).

The A’s got one more in the 6th inning, and would you believe it involved Marte? He came up with a runner on second and singled him in.

That was Marte’s fourth hit of the day, finishing 4-for-5 with an RBI, a run, and a steal. In nine games since being traded to the A’s, he’s batting .425/.465/.625 with 6 RBI, 8 runs, 7 steals, and 2 homers (including a walk-off dinger).

In the end, Oakland reached base 16 times, including a dozen hits and four walks, and they stole a pair of bases to further set the table (Harrison also swiped one). Then they cashed in by hitting a homer and going 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Now that’s how you score some runs.

Kap returns

The A’s got good news on the other side of the ball too, as starter James Kaprielian returned from a brief trip to the injured list. He took the mound Sunday and picked up right where he’d left off, with another quality effort.

  • Kaprielian: 6 ip, 2 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 3 hits, 84 pitches, 82.9 mph EV

What more is there to say about the rotation? The starting pitcher was good, and at one point he retired 11 straight batters. He wasn’t perfect, and the Rangers ripped a couple extra-base hits to earn a couple runs, but they only hit the ball hard against him four times.

The bullpen continued to be a pleasant afterthought by creating no drama in the late innings. Trade acquisition Andrew Chafin pitched a perfect 7th, and he’s yet to be charged with a run through six outings with the club. Yusmeiro Petit allowed a solo homer in the 8th, but Texas never brought the tying run to the plate, as Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino closed it out.

Sweep!

The Rangers are really bad right now, but they’ve given the A’s some trouble this year, and a sweep is always impressive no matter the disparity in talent. Don’t get too cocky about beating up on a rebuilding cellar-dweller, but also don’t not enjoy it.

The takeaways might be more exciting than the actual victories themselves. First and foremost, Oakland is suddenly only two games behind the Astros in the AL West division. The A’s lineup has taken a huge step forward, not just due to some fluke hot streak but rather a significant change in personnel that gives them more ways to reliably score. And the injury-prone starter who got hurt appears to be fine after all.

It was a good day.