Losing both games of Saturday’s doubleheader in Arlington 10-5 and 3-1 was certainly discouraging for the Oakland Athletics, but the manner in which they lost the first game demonstrated that the team’s quest to round out its starting rotation, an endeavor that’s lasted throughout the first two-plus months of the season, still remains unsolved.
Paul Blackburn was called up from Triple-A to start the afternoon game and did little to create any confidence as he allowed three runs in the first inning, then yielded a two-run shot to Nomar Mazara in the third as the Texas Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Blackburn lasted just three innings, allowing five hits and walking three while striking out four.
With Daniel Mengden already demoted back to the minors after an extremely poor outing earlier in the week, it leaves the A’s with a serious hole in the fifth spot in their rotation. Marco Estrada was mediocre at best when healthy and is currently dealing with back injuries, Jesus Luzardo, Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk are all working their way back from injuries and Andrew Triggs has been injured for nearly two months.
Even with Blackburn’s poor showing, the A’s still had their chances after a four-run top of the fourth inning spoiled Joe Palumbo’s MLB debut. Matt Olson hit a two-run shot off the lefty and Josh Phegley doubled home a pair of runs, but Ryan Dull was unable to keep the floodgates closed at the other end.
Making his first appearance since being recalled, Elvis Andrus doubled in a run off the North Carolina native, and after eventual winning pitcher Jeffrey Springs took care of the top of the A’s order in the fifth, Dull let the first two men on in the bottom half as Asdrubal Cabrera singled and Rougned Odor walked. An Olson throwing error on an attempt to get a force out at second let Cabrera score as Ronald Guzman found his way on, and Tim Federowicz — a journeyman catcher called up by the Rangers the night before as Isiah Kiner-Falefa was injured — hit a hanging Dull slider into the seats in left to make it 10-4.
Phegley would hit his eighth homer of the year in the top of the seventh to get a run back, and Aaron Brooks made his case for reclaiming the fifth spot in the rotation by allowing just three baserunners over the final three innings and striking out four, but his prior track record suggests he would likely be a temporary fix at most.
The nightcap, which finally started at 8:21 p.m. local time after a ceremony to retire Adrian Beltre’s jersey, with Andrus touching his head one last time as part of a long-running gag, was a far cry from the earlier contest and the polar opposite of an ordinary game at Globe Life Park.
Adrian Sampson became the first Ranger rookie to throw a complete game since 2015 and the first to do it at home since 2009, allowing just a solo homer to Mark Canha in the fourth inning and nothing more. He shut down a typically patient A’s lineup on 109 pitches, striking out seven and walking just one in front of 39,514 fans, many of whom showed up to honor one player named Adrian but ended up being wowed by another.
Texas (34-29) got a two-run rally from the bottom of the order in the fifth, with consecutive singles by Danny Santana, Ronald Guzman and .152 hitter Jeff Mathis to tie the game. A’s starter Chris Bassitt then hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch to load the bases, and Delino DeShields gave the Rangers the lead with a sac fly. The hosts would score one more in the bottom of the sixth as Odor walked after home plate umpire John Libka didn’t give Bassitt a close pitch, then scored on a Santana triple. Liam Hendriks and Wei-Chung Wang got the final seven outs for Oakland (32-33) in order, combining for four strikeouts, but the offense was thoroughly silenced by Sampson to seal a doubleheader sweep.
It’s not like the A’s will have time to sit around and feel sorry for themselves, as they’ll have under 13 hours between the final out of the nightcap and Sunday’s getaway day game before flying to Tampa Bay for a three-game set with the Rays.