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Game #47: A’s blink first in pitching duel, lose 4-1 to Rangers

#FilthyFrankie was that and more tonight

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s were on the wrong side of a pitching duel at the Coliseum tonight, losing to the Texas Rangers 4-1 in the series opener.

The starting pitching on both sides was excellent, as each went seven innings and allowed just a single run. The A’s bullpen fell apart in the ninth, though, allowing three runs in a rare meltdown from the ‘pen.

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

With both teams' aces going tonight, it looked like spectators were in store for a pitching duel. And that’s exactly what happened in this game, with Frankie Montas facing off against Martin Perez for seven innings apiece tonight at the Coliseum.

Both got an easy 1-2-3 first inning before Texas bit Montas for an early run in the second. A single, Elvis Andrus error, and walk loaded the bases with one out against Montas. After a swinging strikeout for out number 2, it looked like he might wiggle out of the jam. The next batter had a close check swing on 3-1 pitch that went the Rangers’ way, though, and Montas walked in the first run of the game. He did get old friend Marcus Semien to fly out with the bases still loaded to limit the damage to just the one run.

A two-out single in the third didn’t hurt him, and the Athletics’ righty settled in after that, as he sat down the next nine batters he faced, five of them swinging strikeouts.

On offense, meanwhile, the bats don’t look like they made the trip back from Seattle with the team. Oakland got their first hit with two outs in the third, courtesy of a Ramon Laureano single. A wild pitch moved him to second but Oakland couldn’t find the two-out hit to bring him in and he was stranded in scoring position.

A golden opportunity presented itself to the home team the next inning. After a Chad Pinder single and a Sean Murphy double, Oakland had runners at second and third with no out. Surely they could bring in at least one, if not two, right? For a moment, it looked like the A’s would waste another perfect chance. A strikeout and lineout put Perez on the cusp of escaping unscathed, but an Andrus walk brought up third baseman Kevin Smith. On the first pitch, the ball snuck its way in between the Rangers’ catcher’s legs, tying this game for the A’s:

Smith grounded out to end the inning, so Oakland didn’t totally capitalize on the baserunners, but at least they got one thanks to the Rangers. Hey, with the way Perez was pitching, they’ll take anything.

Montas’ 10 straight outs were broken up by leadoff double in the top of the seventh, That didn’t faze the righty, as he struck out the next two before a flyout ended the inning and Montas’ day.

  • Frankie Montas: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 11 K, 96 pitches

While a lot of attention has been paid to fellow starter Paul Blackburn, tonight Montas reasserted himself as the staff ace of the Oakland A’s. His ability to dominate and get strikeouts seemingly at will are what separate the two, and it’s what makes him so attractive to other teams as a prospective trade acquisition. He won’t get it, but Montas deserved his third win tonight. He truly was #FilthyFrankie tonight.

Controversy struck in the bottom of the seventh. After A’s batters went down in order in the fifth and sixth innings, a leadoff push bunt single by Christian Bethancourt and a throwing error put him in scoring position late for the A’s. Perfect!

Except it wasn’t. The home plate umpire ruled that Bethancourt ran outside of the basepath, calling him out:

It’s mildly surprising that Mark Kotsay wasn’t ejected here, as the replay is somewhat clear that Texas just bungled the play. The next batter hit a double that would have brought in Bethancourt, so the call immediately stung the A’s. Ow.

With both starters approaching 100 pitches, both teams turned to their bullpens in the eighth, It was Domingo Acevedo first out for the A’s, pitching a perfect inning with a pair of strikeouts. Texas’ own reliever had a clean eighth inning, although Oakland at least got a two-out single against him.

Then disaster stuck. Texas broke the game open in the ninth against Lou Trivino, getting three straight hits including an RBI double to give the Rangers the lead and capped by a two-run home run by Nathaniel Lowe against Sam Moll that gave Texas some insurance. That was the first home run Moll has allowed all year, and it came at a tough time.

Oakland got a leadoff walk against Texas closer Scott Barlow thanks to a pinch-hitting Tony Kemp, but a double play from another pinch-hitter, Luis Barrera, wiped him out and an Andrus pop out to Semien at second base ended this game.

So Oakland’s modest two-game win streak ends with a loss in the series opener. Texas’ ace locked down Oakland hitters for seven innings, giving up a run instead of the A’s earning one. Frankie Montas was on fire tonight, coming up one strikeout short of his season-high. But Lou Trivino, who had looked much better in low-leverage situations recently, struggled in a tied game in the ninth inning and cost the A’s at least a chance in extras. Sigh.

They’ll have a chance to get right back on the horse, though. Lefty-hander Cole Irvin is set for the start tomorrow night, same time, same place. He’ll be facing off against Texas offseason acquisition Jon Gray, who hasn’t had the same success as Perez this year, so it should be an easier go for the bats tomorrow. See you all then!