Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien has been on a steady slide, offensively, for the last month.
Since April 29, Semien had hit just .212, with three home runs and an on-base percentage of .312. Despite his career-best defense (he’s worth seven defensive runs saved, 12th in MLB and third among shortstops), Semien has had one of the worst stretches of his career at teh plate. Then came Friday.
Semien had four hits and two home runs in the series-opener against the Texas Rangers, including a go-ahead two-run blast in the top of the ninth. Closer Blake Treinen got a game-ending double play to escape a bases loaded jam in the ninth, and the A’s won the first game of their penultimate trip to Globe Life Park, 5-3.
Semien took Jose Leclerc deep with two outs in the top of the ninth to put Oakland (32-31) in front, and though Treinen let three consecutive baserunners reach with one out in the bottom of the inning via a single and back-to-back walks, he got Elvis Andrus to ground into an inning-ending, around-the-horn double play to put the A’s back over .500.
Semien was part of Oakland’s first run-scoring rally off Lance Lynn in the first, singling before a walk to Matt Chapman and an RBI base knock by Matt Olson. Semien extended the lead to 2-0 with a solo shot off of Lynn in the fifth.
Oakland wasted opportunities to score in the second after the first two men reached, and again in the sixth by wasting an Olson leadoff double. That left Brett Anderson to work with minimal run support and try to save an exhausted bullpen with a doubleheader looming Saturday and no off-days for a week. He got through the first five innings with ease, but Texas (32-29) struck for three in the sixth to take the lead. Delino DeShields led the inning off with a single, and Andrus got the hosts on the board with a one-out triple. Nomar Mazara’s weak groundout let Andrus score to tie the game, and Hunter Pence followed with a solo shot, his 13th of the year, to put the hosts in front.
The lead wouldn’t last for long, as Rangers manager Chris Woodward entrusted Shelby Miller to protect the one-run margin. Mark Canha led off with a single, and after Jurickson Profar replaced him at first on a force out, an error by Andrus put runners on the corners. That set the stage for Semien to come through, and he singled to right for his third hit of the night to tie the game.
With the bullpen taxed, Anderson returned to the mound in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh. He let the Rangers load the bases with one out as Rougned Odor singled, career .196 hitter Jeff Mathis walked and DeShields bunted for a hit. That prompted Bob Melvin to finally call to his bullpen, and Yusmeiro Petit pulled a Houdini act to get out of the inning, striking out Logan Forsythe on a foul tip and allowing Andrus to get ahead 3-0 before inducing a fly ball that Robbie Grossman flagged down at the warning track in left-center to end the inning.
Jesse Chavez held serve for the Rangers in the top of the eighth, and though Petit would allow a leadoff single to Mazara, who moved to second on a wild pitch, he would go on to retire the next three batters with ease.
Leclerc came in for the top of the ninth but allowed a one-out double to Profar on a soft grounder that just stayed fair along the third base line. Josh Phegley then flew out, but Semien hit an opposite-field homer on a 3-2 pitch that barely got over the wall in right-center.
Treinen got Odor to fly out to start the bottom of the ninth, but the same part of the order that rallied against Anderson in the sixth and seventh threatened again. Ronald Guzman pinch-hit for Mathis and singled, and DeShields and Forsythe walked to load the bases. Andrus got ahead in the count 3-0, but Treinen worked it back to full, and he induced a routine grounder to third that Chapman sent to Profar and then on to first to end the game, rewarding Petit for his heroics and earning the right-hander his first win of the year.