OAKLAND — The Oakland Athletics weren’t quite able to complete a sweep of the Texas Rangers on Sunday, but they still wrapped up a successful final homestand of the 2019 regular season.
If they play another game at the Coliseum this year, it will be in the postseason.
Oakland allowed five homers to the Rangers and lost 8-3, but still won the series and took four of six games on the homestand. Most of the damage in the finale came against starter Tanner Roark, while the A’s couldn’t get much going against Rangers starter Lance Lynn on a day in which they struck out 15 times.
“We can’t go 162-0, I don’t think anybody’s ever done that,” said Roark. “It’s just a loss, and that’s on me. Just giving up that many runs that early just puts us in a bad spot. Like we’ve done all year since I’ve been here, you just move on and nobody dwells on anything, you just get better.”
The Tampa Bay Rays also lost on Sunday, meaning the A’s didn’t give up any ground to them in the wild card race, which Oakland leads by two games. The Cleveland Indians won, and so pulled into a tie with the Rays for the second spot. The A’s magic number to clinch one of the two wild card spots is five, with six games left to play.
“This time of year, sure you’re gonna take a series win, but we’re more just trying to win every possible game we can,” said manager Bob Melvin. “We don’t want to give [a game] away.”
The Rangers took the lead on the very first pitch of the game against Roark, as Shin-Soo Choo blasted a home run over the suites in center field and into the second deck. The shot measured 461 feet, making it the third-longest homer allowed by A’s pitchers this season.
Two batters later, Willie Calhoun smashed another long ball, and three batters after that, Elvis Andrus added a two-run tater, Texas’ third homer of the inning. By the time Roark got back to the dugout, he’d faced eight hitters and the Rangers led 4-0. In the third inning, Calhoun went deep off Roark again, this time sending it 421 feet into the right-field bleachers.
“A lot of times when you have a chance at a good starter it’s early in the game,” Melvin said. “They got him before he could get into his rhythm, hit some balls out of the ballpark, and you get on the run a little bit.”
Roark has enjoyed more good outings than bad since being acquired by the A’s in July, but his last three times out, he’s surrendered a total of 14 runs and eight homers in 13 1/3 frames. His ERA for Oakland now stands at 4.50 in 50 innings.
The A’s bullpen didn’t have any better luck, as A.J. Puk was tagged for two runs in the fourth and Ryan Buchter allowed another solo homer in the fifth to Nomar Mazara.
One bright spot for the pitching staff was Chris Bassitt, who came out of the pen for three innings of mop-up duty. Despite a strong performance as a starter this year, the right-hander was recently squeezed out of the crowded rotation, and Sunday marked his second relief appearance of the season. He responded well, tossing three scoreless innings, striking out five, and allowing just two baserunners on a hit and a hit batsman.
“He just looks at it as pitching,” Melvin said. “Whatever inning that he’s in there, he doesn’t look too much into it. He’s not, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta start, I have to relieve, I have to give some length.’ He just goes out there and competes. He’s always been a really great competitor, and he’s the type of guy that can acclimate to any role we give to him.”
Bassitt has previous experience working out of the bullpen, both last September and at times in his minor league career.
“It’s a big thing more so to give the guys we’ve relied on this year some rest,” said Bassitt. “There’s meaningful games that they’re going to need to pitch in, and we need to have them at 100 percent. I told [the staff] ‘Whenever you need me, I can eat innings out of the pen. Or I can close games. Whatever you need, I’m comfortable.’”
After tallying 20 runs against the Rangers in the first two games of the series combined, the A’s lineup struggled to find the plate on Sunday despite banging out 11 hits, including seven doubles. They went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
Jurickson Profar led the way with three hits, including an RBI double in the fourth inning for Oakland’s first run. That snapped a 1-for-24 skid over his previous eight games.
Marcus Semien also stayed red-hot, swatting two doubles and factoring into most of the A’s scoring. After his first hit he came around on an RBI single by Matt Olson, and his second double drove in the final run of the day. Semien’s 81 extra-base hits are now tied for third-most in Oakland history, while his 120 runs are tied for second.
Despite the tepid showing in the finale, the A’s still finished with 125 runs against Texas this year in 19 matchups, which is the second-most they’ve ever scored against a single opponent in Oakland history. In 2003 they piled up 128 runs against the Seattle Mariners.
The A’s now head on the road to finish out the regular season, with two games against the Los Angeles Angels and four against the Mariners.