It somehow feels like it’s been months since the Oakland A’s last game, which was two days ago. The terrible news that the team’s terrible owner John Fisher is shifting all his focus to relocation made Thursday feel like an eternity. But while Oakland still has ‘em, we might as well enjoy the games as best as we can.
Disregarding the bad news, it’s been tough to enjoy the season with losses piling up as fast as A’s jerseys in Oakland dumpsters. Fortunately for the fanbase, or what’s left of it, the team earned a much-needed win against the division-leading Texas Rangers that snapped the A’s 7-game losing streak.
Starting for the A’s was JP Sears, who was originally slated for the bullpen but has somehow become one of the A’s most reliable (or least unreliable) starters. It didn’t seem that way in the first when he dug the A’s into a 4-0 hole in the bottom of the 1st. The first run came on an Adolis Garcia single that knocked in former A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman from 2nd base and moved Nate Lowe over to his spot. With runners on 1st and 2nd now, another former Athletic Jonah Heim blasted an above-the-zone fastball into the left-field stands, driving in Texas’ second, third, and fourth runs.
In spite of the shaky beginning, Sears locked in and gave the A’s their best chance to win the rest of the ballgame. Over the next 5 innings, the southpaw starter struck out 11 hitters and only allowed three baserunners — a hit-by-pitch and two singles. Take away that 1st inning and Sears delivered the best start of his young career.
Sears was as composed and competitive as you can expect in those last 5 innings, but the A’s could’ve let his turnaround go to waste with another dud of an offensive night. Fortunately, the lineup wasn’t a dud and clawed its way back run by run to secure the win.
The offense first got going in the bottom of the 4th. A walk from Brent Rooker, who’s back after some right hamstring tightness, and a Jace Pederson single put runners at 1st and 3rd for the A’s with 1 out. Aledmys Diaz then chopped a high grounder to 2nd that allowed Rooker to score the A’s first run of the night. Tony Kemp followed it up the next inning with a leadoff blast to right-center field, his first homer of the year, erasing half of the A’s deficit. A few mistakes, including a throwing error and a wild pitch, brought Kevin Smith in for the A’s third run, making it a 4-3 game
One inning later, the Rangers’ pitching began to unravel. Struggling with command all night, starter Jon Gray gave up a leadoff single to Connor Capel who he then moved to 2nd base on a wild pitch. He then hit his next batter, Shea Langeliers, putting runners at 1st and 2nd. He and Jonathan Hernandez were able to get the next 2 outs but Esteury Ruiz, who’s been knocking in runs all season, squeezed a groundball just through 3rd base and shortstop, scoring Connor Capel and tying the game at 4-4.
Fully expecting the bullpen to blow the game, Chad Smith and Zach Jackson actually locked down the 7th and 8th innings, holding the tie. With a Rangers walkoff or extra innings at stake, the A’s needed to strike in the top of the 9th.
The Rangers let Jose Leclerc, who locked down the 8th, come back out to get the first out of the ninth against the righty Ruiz. With the left-handed Ryan Noda on deck, Texas went to southpaw Will Smith to finish out the inning. Mark Kotsay, of course, countered with a right-handed pinch hitter, Jordan Diaz, who’s playing in just his season major league game of the season. After getting behind to a 1-2 count, shot a soft 79 mph slider just over the left-field wall and gave the A’s the game-winning run they desperately needed.
To close the ballgame out, Kotsay went to the veteran Jeurys Familia, who’s struggled this season and came into to the game with an even 6.00 ERA. After walking the leadoff hitter Heim, it felt like things were going to unravel, as they always do for the Oakland A’s. Instead, Familia got Josh Smith to ground into a double play that revived the team’s momentum before inducing another soft groundball to Diaz, who stayed in the game at 2nd, for the game-ending play.
The losing streak is over (again) and A’s fans get a slight reprieve from the last day, week, month, and year of turmoil. The struggle to enjoy this season continues tomorrow Shintaro Fujinami facing off against Andrew Heaney.