The Athletics continue to churn out late-game runs and series victories at the Oakland Coliseum.
Trailing through the first half of the game, Oakland went ahead in the sixth and had to do it once again in the eighth, an inning in which the A’s (86-57) had scored 104 runs, a franchise record, prior to Saturday. And Matt Olson broke that record blasting the go-ahead homer (25) to set up a 8-6 victory.
Taking the first two from the Rangers (61-81), the A’s have now clinched a series victory stretching their home unbeaten streak to a franchise record 13 consecutive series (11-0-2). The win also lowers Oakland’s magic number for a playoff berth to 14 with the Yankees and Mariners set to square off in Seattle Saturday night.
The recipe has never been the same but for much of the season the results in the eighth inning have been delicious for Oakland. With two more Saturday, the 2018 A’s now hold the franchise record with 106 runs scored in the eighth. Manager Bob Melvin said that the late-game scoring is a product of his club’s prolific power:
“We can grind on some pitchers and make them work, and one big swing a lot of times does it. … There are a lot of guys through out lineup that can hit home runs and when you’re in close games like that, sometimes a home run is an important one.”
Olson’s homer was the 30th in the eighth this season for the A’s, one short of a franchise record, set in 2000.
It was a bit of a circuitous route to the cheap seats for Olson. The eventual game-deciding blast didn’t come until after an attempt at a bunt bore no fruit.
With the Texas infield shifting against the powerful lefty, he attempted a slump-busting bunt up the third base line. But as it sailed past third base it landed mere feet foul. Third baseman Jurickson Profar slid a few steps to his right, closing the door on another bunt attempt and opening it for a 398-foot rocket. Olson said that moving on from a chance narrowly missed wasn’t difficult:
“It’s not anything to get beat up about, I wanted it to be a hit or be foul. You’ve got to take those chances when they’re giving you that whole left side. He moved over so I decided to swing it after that.”
Of his club’s knack for late offense, Olson added:
“We’re resilient, we don’t really give up on anything. … Everybody wants the opportunity to put us ahead and it has just worked out that way.”
The A’s found themselves in a tied game late following another rough outing from Fernando Rodney, who choked away the lead allowing an Adrián Beltré two-run blast, his second of the day (11, 12), in the eighth. Rodney has now been tagged with 10 hits and six runs in 3-1/3 innings this month.
Aside from the late Oakland offense, nothing better defines a Rangers-A’s matchup in 2018 than a Khris Davis home run, and Davis provided the punch early launching a two-run long ball (41) in the very first inning.
It was Davis’ first homer in 20 at-bats — six games — and second in September following a 10-homer August. The Oakland designated hitter, like each of his previous seasons, has seen stretches of sizzling heat as well as frosty cold this year, but the Rangers seem to coax only high temperatures from the MVP candidate.
In 55 career matchups with Rangers pitching, including Saturday, Davis has batted .307 with 28 homers and 64 RBIs, each of the latter two career highs against any single opponent. And this season he has upped the ante, homering 10 times and driving in 26 runs in 18 games.
For all the success Davis has had against the Rangers this season, Edwin Jackson has matched it with as much difficulties.
Said the starter:
“I guess it’s safe to say they have my number this year. I feel like all the runs I given up this year, pretty much, has been against this team.”
In fact, Jackson (ND, 5-3, 3.26 ERA) has allowed 13 runs in 11-2/3 innings (10.03 ERA) head-to-head with Texas, including four in three innings Saturday, and just 18 runs (15 earned) in 65-2/3 innings (2.06 ERA) against all other opponents. He said:
“It’s one of those days where you feel bad for the bullpen having to come in and put in that much work.”
The bullpen bailed him out though, holding the Rangers to Rodney’s two runs over the six frames following his departure. Ryan Buchter (W, 4-0, 3.09 ERA) was credited with the win after finishing the eighth.
Texas starter Yohander Méndez (ND, 1-1, 5.27 ERA) stifled everyone in green and gold not named Khris, but departed after four innings having thrown 87 pitches.
Once Méndez was relieved, the A’s offense took no time rediscovering its groove and erasing a 4-2 deficit and taking an eventual lead on a Chad Pinder homer (11) in the sixth. Profar homered (16) for the Rangers.
Trevor Cahill (6-3, 3.60 ERA) gets the series finale starting assignment looking to finish Oakland’s 10-game homestand with a win and 6-4 record. He will face rookie Ariel Jurado (2-4, 6.00 ERA) who scattered 10 hits while holding the A’s to four runs over 5-2/3 innings in his lone previous start against them.
Manager Bob Melvin said before the game that he expects outfielder Nick Martini and reliever Ryan Dull to be recalled prior to Sunday’s series finale. Melvin added that starter Frankie Montas will likely be recalled Monday, saying his duties, be it as a starter or reliever, with the club have yet to be determined. … Brett Anderson (strained left forearm) threw a simulated game Saturday. In three innings, Anderson (3-4, 4.02 ERA) threw 45 pitches (15 each) facing hitters. Melvin said, barring setback, the lefty is nearing a return from the disabled list. … Matt Olson was left out of the starting lineup Saturday and Melvin expect the same to be true Sunday. Olson had slashed .158/.273/.211 in August prior to Saturday’s game seeing his average for the season fall from .240 to .237 in the six games. He is homer-less in his last nine games. … Khris Davis’ home run in the first inning was his 39th this season as a designated hitter tying the A’s franchise single-season record for a DH, previously set in 2006 by Frank Thomas. David Ortiz was the last player to hit 40 or more homers as a DH for any team when he connected for 47 in 2006 as a member of the Red Sox.