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Game #130: A’s Secure Sweep Behind Cotton’s Great Start

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Cotton went 6 strong innings against the Rangers en route to an 8-3 A’s win.

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

Oakland wins 8-3 to secure a 3-game Players Weekends sweep! Sweemper has mostly been dormant this season, so we were overdue for him to pay another visit.

On a serious note before getting into the recap, please consider donating to help with disaster relief in Houston via the article on the front page. Stay safe everyone.

Cotton Strong Through 6

Jharel Cotton has been confounding in 2017, following up an excellent couple of months in 2016 with a season where the only thing he has done consistently is serve up home runs. Fortunately, these last two games have been a different story. In his last start, Cotton surrendered only 2 runs to a powerhouse Astros lineup in more than 6 innings. He did it again today, yielding only 1 earned run (2 total) in 6 innings.

Cotton simply had all of his pitches working for him today. He used every pitch in his arsenal for a strikeout at some point, tying his season high of 9 K’s. He kept his changeup out of the middle of the strikezone and was able to locate his fastball as well, getting lots of swings and misses at high heaters sitting 94-96. He flashed a decent curveball here and there and worked confidently at the edges of the strike zone, never giving the Rangers too much to work with. His pitch count ran a little high thanks to starting off some batters with 3-0 or 3-1 counts, but overall he looked really, really good, like how we all expected him to going into the season. And he did it all in some super cool, pastel-colored striped socks.

After a couple of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 1st, Cotton got put in some hot water in the 2nd by his defense. Adrian Beltre hit a leadoff double on a soft line drive, per usual. Beltre advanced to third on a fly out to center field, making it safely by millimeters on a throw from Powell that was just slightly off-line. Cotton fell behind Mike Napoli 3-0 and then miraculously induced a pop-up…which Jed Lowrie missed in the sun, clanking it and allowing Beltre to score and Napoli to reach first base. 1-0 Rangers. It was Lowrie’s first error in 43 games, but it was about as embarrassing and timely as an error can be. The rest of the inning was scary: Chiniros singled and a “wild pitch” (which was really mostly the result of poor blocking by Maxwell) put runners at second and third, but Cotton ultimately escaped the inning with just the 1 unearned run.

Cotton had another 1-2-3 inning in the 3rd, then got into some more trouble in the 4th after a single and another error (this time by Matt Chapman) put some runners on. Fortunately, he escaped the jam with a timely strikeout and pop-up.

Even the 1 earned run he gave up, in the 5th inning, isn’t all on Cotton - at least not if you’re superstitious. With two outs, Glen Kuiper started talking about how the Rangers hadn’t hit a home run in their last 2 games. And wouldn’t you know it, on the very next pitch, Shin-soo Choo hit one to give the Rangers their second run. If the Rangers are going to break that streak, I suppose it would be against Cotton - it was his 21st home run yielded this season. But Jharel managed two more strikeouts in the 5th, then another in a very quick 6th, to leave the game with 9.

Bullpen, Too, Overcomes Defense

Daniel Coulombe pitched a quick, clean 7th. The 8th, however, was anything but quick and clean. Chris Hatcher came in to pitch. Carlos Gomez singled, then a passed ball by Bruce Maxwell allowed him to advance to second. A groundout moved Gomez to third, then Elvis Andrus put together a good at-bat and singled up the middle to put the Rangers with a run, 4-3. Then we witnessed yet another defensive miscue, though this one won’t show up in the Errors column - there was some kind of miscommunication between Mark Canha and Boog Powell in the outfield that allowed a catchable flyball from Adrian Beltre to drop. By the time they got the ball back in, there were runners on second and third, still with only one out. If either outfielder had been decisive and called for it, the ball easily could have been caught. Oakland intentionally walked Nomar Mazara and brought in Blake Treinen to face Mike Napoli with the bases loaded. One way or another, Treinen got the job done - Napoli blasted a line drive, but Chapman caught it and rushed to tag third before Andrus could. And just like that, we were out of the jam.

And finally, the 9th saw some great defense from Chad Pinder on two separate occasions - to spear a sharply hit ball and throw to first for an out, then to catch a line drive for the final out of the game.

Oh yeah, those 8 runs we scored?

The Youth Can Hit

The A’s scored 8 runs in this game, and honestly, they could have done a lot more damage. After going down quietly in the 1st to BFF AJ Griffin and then yielding an unearned run in the top of the 2nd, Oakland’s offense had some work to do. Joyce opened things up with an infield single on a protection swing - we’ll take it! Having that baserunner proved handy a couple batters later when Matt Olson hit a laser of a home run to right field on an inside fastball - I would say he’s proving how well he can turn on an inside pitch, but an AJ Griffin fastball is only 87 mph. Either way, the A’s were on top 2-1. Matt Chapman quickly followed up with a home run of his own to make it 3-1.

The A’s stranded quite a few runners through the middle innings - I was fully ready for this to be one of those “we had every opportunity to win” games until the 8th. Walks by Semien and Lowrie were wasted in the 3rd. Then in the 4th, an Olson single and Maxwell double (which pushed Griffin out of the game) followed by another Semien walk to load the bases were also left un-capitalized-on. Pinder was stranded in the 5th, and then finally in the 6th the A’s scored again after Marcus Semien (who had a heck of a game, along with Matts Olson and Chapman) hustled to beat out a double play with a runner at third.

In the 8th, though, things kind of fell apart for the Rangers and turned a 4-3 game into a comfortable 5-run Oakland win. Matt Olson led of the inning with a great at-bat, fending off tough pitches until he got something he could hit for a single. It was his third hit of the day, including the 2-run home run. Matt Chapman followed up with a single of his own, taking an outside pitch back to his side of the field with a wide sweep of a swing. After a Maxwell strikeout, the A’s became the beneficiaries of a defensive miscue. Boog Powell hit a tailor-made double play ball, but Odor’s throw to second base went high and bounced off Andrus’s glove into the outfield, allowing Olson to score and the runners to end at second and third, still with one out. 5-3. Semien singled to drive in both the baserunners, and it was 7-3. Suddenly, we were able to clear the bases consistently. Semien, who had advanced to second on the throw, stole third for his second steal of the day. Khris Davis singled and it was 8-3.

So that’s it. The A’s secure a sweep at home over the Rangers and tie up the season series between the two teams. Jharel Cotton, Marcus Semien, Matt Olson, and Matt Chapman all had excellent games. The youth were real good.