Saturday afternoon’s game between the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers was a perfect example of how well Oakland is playing lately.
Rangers ace Yu Darvish only allowed the A’s one run on four base hits, striking out ten batters in seven innings of work – but it wasn’t enough to put Texas in in the win column. The reason for that? Bartolo Colon, who was absolutely dominant in his eight shutout innings against the once-potent Rangers lineup.
In contrast to Friday night’s tense, four-hour 9-8 win for the A’s, Saturday’s game was low-scoring, but also had its own sense of tension due to the stakes at hand. Texas is fighting for its life in the A.L. West, while the A’s are looking to push themselves even closer to a second straight division title.
Offensively, the game was basically decided in the first. Darvish walked Josh Donaldson with one out. Two batters later, Brandon Moss cracked a double down the right field line, scoring Donaldson from first and giving the A’s the 1-0 lead they’d hold for the next nine innings.
Again, this was a game decided by pitching – Darvish pitched like the ace he is, in contrast to his disastrous outing in Oakland on September 4th, when he walked six batters and allowed five runs in five innings.
On Saturday, he blanked the A’s for the rest of his six innings, ultimately tallying 10 strikeouts in the process. Tanner Scheppers and Neal Cotts kept the A’s down for the final two innings, but Oakland didn’t need any insurance runs anyway.
As mentioned earlier, Colon threw one of the best games of his season on Saturday – but he had to make some big pitches on a few occasions. He helped himself in the third, after allowing a one-out single to Ian Kinsler. Colon made a great play to snare a hard grounder back through the box from Elvis Andrus, firing to second to start an inning-ending 1-4-3 double play.
In the fourth, A.J. Pierzynski singled and Geovany Soto doubled, putting runners on second and third with two outs – but Colon struck out Mitch Moreland to escape the jam. Colon also stranded a leadoff Alex Rios single in the bottom of the sixth, preserving the 1-0 lead.
Another key moment came in the bottom of the eighth, when Andrus singled, stole third and advanced to third on a flyout. With A’s nemesis Adrian Beltre at the plate and the tying run at third base, Colon retired Beltre on a deep fly to Josh Reddick in the right field corner, once again quashing a potential Rangers rally.
Closer Grant Balfour came in for the save in the ninth and popped up Pierzynski, retired Lance Berkman on a liner to Coco Crisp in center, and walked Moreland before catching David Murphy on a called third strike to nail down the important 1-0 win for Oakland.
The loss was Darvish’s fourth defeat by a 1-0 score this season, and his fifth loss to Oakland in six career starts.
With the win, the A’s (87-61) increased their lead in the A.L. West to 5.5 games, and reduced their magic number to clinch the West to 10 games.
Tomorrow, the A’s will have the opportunity to sweep Texas and move up to a 6.5 game lead. Jarrod Parker (11-6, 3.55 ERA) will take on lefty Martin Perez (9-4, 3.60) at 12:05 p.m. PDT.