The Oakland A’s played host to their American League West rival Texas Rangers on Friday at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Arizona. The Rangers entered the game with several familiar faces as Marcus Semien, Robbie Grossman and Jonah Heim took the field to face their old ball club.
Paul Blackburn looked to have some success in his second outing for the green and gold after a disastrous spring training debut. The Oakland righty gave up five hits and six runs in one inning against the Cincinnati Reds last weekend. While there was no reason to sound the alarm, Oakland’s coaching staff hoped to see their All-Star pitcher have some success. Blackburn looked sharper in his start against the Rangers. He would end the second inning striking out both Clint Frazier and Bubba Thompson looking.
Texas would get on the board first. Marcus Semien hit a line drive that got past a diving Jace Peterson for a standup double. Nathaniel Lowe scored Semiem from third, after he advanced on a Cory Seager fly out to Esteury Ruiz.
Rangers starter Dane Dunning had little problem with the Oakland hitters, ending the bottom of the second retiring Laureano, Bleday and Allen in succession. At the end of the third inning, Dunning had retired seven Oakland batters in a row. The Oakland hitters had no answer for the Rangers starter who put up impressive numbers with 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB and 2 SO. His ability to induce ground-ball outs was what set him apart today.
In the top of the fourth inning, Paul Blackburn was lifted after Josh Jung hit a solo homer. Texas led 2-0 after four innings. Drew Steckenrider came in and retired the next two Texas batters.
Lowe continued his attack on Oakland pitching, singling off Drew Steckenrider and scoring Semien for his second RBI of the game. The Rangers extended their lead 4-0 on a Jonah Heim sacrifice fly that scored Seager.
Esteury Ruiz finally got the A’s on the board with a double to centerfield that scored Nick Allen from second base.
The Rangers extended their lead over the A’s on a Clint Frazier single that scored Robbie Grossman. Yoshi Tsutsugo would add two more runs on a soft single to left field scoring brad Miller and Clint Frazier. Tsutsugo would add another RBI in the top of the eighth inning to extend the Rangers lead to 8-1.
Kevin Smith flashed some pop in the bottom half of the inning, scoring Tyler Wade on a ground-rule double to left field. Trenton Brooks followed that up with a homer to center. . The A’s would trail 8-5 to start the ninth inning. Unfortunately, the Rangers weren’t finished and put three more runs on the board to extend their lead 11-5.
The A’s saved the best for last as they inexplicably scored seven runs in the ninth to pull off the victory. Cristian Pache singled home Pablo Reyes to make it 11-6. Lawrence Butler plated two more with a single of his own to make it 11-8. With the bases loaded, Smith struck again with a walk-off grand slam to end the game and to complete the comeback.
Overall, Paul Blackburn looked good against the Rangers. He faced 15 batters, threw twenty-seven strikes in going 3.1 innings with 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 SO and 0 BB. The lone homerun by Josh Jung was the only blemish for the right-handed pitcher and a far cry from his previous outing. In three innings of work, he lowered his ERA to (16.62) and quelled any questions about his standing in the rotation.
The A’s (5-7) will travel to Goodyear tomorrow and look to stretch their win streak to three games against the Cleveland Guardians (4-8). Laefty Ken Waldichuk (0-1, 16.88 ERA) will get the start against the righthander Aaron Civale (1-1, 3.00 ERA) at Goodyear Ball Park.