When the 2018 Oakland Athletics didn’t get good starting pitching, they were never out of games because of their rock-solid bullpen and power-packed offense. The Texas Rangers were often the victims of that formula last year, and the same exact recipe came together on Friday night.
Mike Fiers struggled for a second straight start, allowing six runs over the course of five innings, but as soon as Oakland (10-8) chased Rangers starter Drew Smyly in the top of the sixth, the gears were turning. The A’s wound up scoring four runs in the sixth, and one each over the final three innings torallyfrom a five-run deficit for an 8-6 win at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
Josh Phegley started things in the sixth with a single, and walks to both Marcus Semien and Mark Canha signaled the end of Smyly’s night. Former A’s pitcher Jesse Chavez, who pitched in Oakland as both a starter and reliever from 2012 to 2015, came in for the Rangers, and quickly gave up a two-run single to Matt Chapman.
Khris Davis followed with a grounder to third that Asdrubal Cabrera tried to throw home, but the throw hit Canha in the back. The Rangers did manage to nab Chapman at third, but the A’s would cut the lead to one on a Stephen Piscotty RBI double.
Another former Athletic would take the mound in the seventh for Texas (6-7) as Shawn Kelley, who came over in the second half of last season, tried to hold down the fort, but he allowed a game-tying solo homer to Ramon Laureano, whose bomb cleared the fence in deep right-center.
True to form, Davis got his licks in against the Rangers as well, taking Chris Martin for his Major League-leading 10th homer of the season — his 16th in 28 career games at the stadium and fifth in three games — to put the A’s up a run in the top of the eighth.
Phegley drove in an insurance run in the ninth against Jeanmar Gomez after Jurickson Profar and Laureano each singled against Jeffrey Springs, with Phegley sending two bunt attempts foul before lining a single to center.
Yusmeiro Petit took care of the sixth in order to keep the visitors within one, and with the score tied, Lou Trivino handled the seventh. He did give up a single to Shin-Soo Choo, but Phegley gunned him down trying to steal second. Trivino also got the first out of the eighth by striking out Elvis Andrus, but a double down the line by Nomar Mazara prompted manager Bob Melvin to move to lefty Ryan Buchter to handle Joey Gallo.
Buchter fanned him swinging, then gave way to closer Blake Treinen, who struck out Asdrubal Cabrera to end the threat. Saint Mary’s product Patrick Wisdom did grab a one-out single in the ninth as Semien couldn’t corral his liner. Treinen got behind pinch-hitter and former San Francisco Giant Hunter Pence 3-0, but Pence popped out and Treinen froze Choo to end the game.
Those unfamiliar with Oakland’s bullpen and power would have been surprised to see the A’s hi-fiving after a win, considering that Fiers struggled from the moment he took the rubber. Back-to-back doubles by Choo and Logan Forsythe gave the Rangers an immediate run, and Texas got a second on a Mazara groundout after Andrus’ single put men on the corners.
Profar’s RBI double in his first at-bat as a visitor in Arlington got the A’s a run back in the second, but the hosts answered with a Cabrera solo homer in the fourth and got a three-run blast from Andrus in the fifth to seemingly put the game out of reach.
That didn’t stop the A’s, though, who chased Smyly early in the sixth and, as they’ve done so many times the last two years, quickly tore through the five-run gap.