OAKLAND — By the end of the second inning on Saturday, the Oakland Athletics had batted around their lineup twice and scored nine runs.
That turned out to be more than enough scoring for the evening.
The A’s routed the Texas Rangers 12-3 in front of nearly 30,000 fans at the Coliseum, one night after blanking the Rangers in another decisive victory on Friday. Marcus Semien reached base six times, including his 32nd homer of the year, and Mark Canha also added a homer.
“It’s always nice,” Semien said of jumping out to a big early lead. “Just gotta keep the foot on the gas pedal still. In the Major Leagues, one inning of scoring, you never want to relax.”
The A’s brought 12 men to the plate in the first inning, scoring seven runs on five singles, a double, three waks and a sacrifice fly. Matt Chapman had two hits in the inning, with the second one driving in a pair of runs to cap the rally.
They nearly batted around again in the second, bringing eight men to the plate and scoring two more runs, including an RBI single by rookie second baseman Sheldon Neuse and a bases-loaded walk by Semien. By the end of that second inning, the Rangers were on to their fourth pitcher of the night; they ended up using nine.
Oakland tacked on another pair in the fifth inning on solo homers by Semien and Canha. Both long balls came off their former teammate, Shawn Kelley, who pitched for the A’s in 2018.
“We’ve seen these guys a lot lately, we just faced them,” Semien said. “So there’s kind of a good familiarity with all their bullpen guys. Sometimes bullpen games are tough, cause you see someone different every time and you don’t know what’s coming, but we faced a lot of those guys just last week.”
Semien collected three hits and three walks, and his six times on base set both a personal career-high and also a season-high for the A’s. He drove in two runs and scored twice, and his 119 runs scored this season are four short of the Oakland record. His 79 extra-base hits put him fourth place in Oakland history.
“It is not premature to talk about him in the MVP race,” manager Bob Melvin said of Semien. “You don’t have to knock in 100 runs to be an MVP, especially when you’re in a leadoff spot. But everything he’s done, from getting on base, to hitting homers, to knocking in runs, to playing defense, to having leadership qualities, he’s on pace for 162 games. I don’t know that anybody’s been more important to a team than Marcus has.”
Semien ranks third in the American League in wins above replacement, behind MVP front-runners Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros. Semien has been especially hot in the second half of the season, with an OPS over 1.000 since the All-Star break as the A’s battle in a tight postseason race.
“It makes me feel great, but we don’t really talk about it in here,” Semien said of the MVP buzz. “We just talk about the playoffs and what we need to do to make it, and tonight was a good start.”
Oakland’s win, combined with a loss on Saturday by the Cleveland Indians, lowered the A’s magic number to five in order to earn a postseason berth with seven games left to play in the regular season. They also have a magic number of five over the Tampa Bay Rays to earn the top wild card spot, which would give Oakland home-field advantage in a potential wild card Game.
“I look at the scoreboard every inning,” Semien said. “The Rays are tough at home and they fought to the end last night and tonight [in extra-inning wins over the Red Sox]. All we can do is control what we can control, which is our game, and come out tomorrow and play hard.”
Saturday’s offensive explosion provided plenty of support for starter Sean Manaea, who didn’t allow a run until the sixth inning. The left-hander danced around trouble in the first couple frames but then retired 11 out of 12 batters through the end of the fifth. Texas finally got to him in the sixth, with a pair of solo homers by Elvis Andrus and Danny Santana.
“Just continues to excel,” said Melvin of Manaea, who was making his fourth start of the season since returning from shoulder surgery and now boasts a sparkling 1.14 ERA. “They nicked him up for a couple runs late, but he’s been consistent every time out, keeps his pitch count under control.”
Oakland’s bullpen kept the Rangers quiet the rest of the way to seal the victory. J.B. Wendelken finished the sixth inning, and then Jesus Luzardo, Ryan Bucther, and Daniel Mengden each tossed an inning, with just a solo homer off Buchter by Nick Solak.