The A’s picked up a full game on the Texas Rangers in the West with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night in Oakland.
Starter A.J. Griffin, perhaps being more selective with his pitching in an effort to curb his penchant for allowing home runs, amassed five walks and 104 pitches through five innings – but he was able to navigate his way out of a few jams in the process, which loomed large in the end.
Offensively, the A’s shot out to a 2-0 lead in the first after a two-out single by Josh Reddick and a two-run Yoenis Cespedes home run to left against tough right-handed starter Justin Masterson.
The top of the third was the first of a few pivotal innings for Griffin and the A’s: After Michael Bourn flew out, Nick Swisher singled, bringing up Jason Kipnis. Reddick made a great play in a Kipnis line drive for the second out of the inning before Carlos Santana singled to right. Reddick, attempting to nab Swisher at third, airmailed his throw and it bounded toward the dugout, crashing into a camera (which is out of bounds). Swisher was awarded home, shrinking the A’s lead to 2-1.
In the fifth, Griffin got into trouble again but found a way out: a two-out Swisher walk, followed by a Kipnis double and a Santana walk loaded the bases for the dangerous Michael Bourn, who lined out to Cespedes in center to end the threat (and Griffin’s night).
After Dan Otero pitched a scoreless sixth out of the bullpen, Bob Melvin handed the ball to Sean Doolittle for the seventh – but he wasn’t very sharp. Drew Stubbs doubled to left-center and was advanced to third on a Bourn sac bunt. On the first pitch he saw, Swisher lined a single to right to tie the game at 2-2. Doolittle escaped the inning without any further damage.
Masterson, who was still dealing, allowed a two-out single to Stephen Vogt in the seventh. Eric Sogard ambushed Masterson with a first-pitch hit down the right-field line, scoring Vogt. Sogard was thrown out at third trying to extend the hit to a triple, but the damage was done.
Ryan Cook allowed a two-out Stubbs double and a Bourn walk in the eighth before getting Swisher to ground to second to end the threat.
In the ninth, Grant Balfour made things interesting. A one-out Santana walk was followed by a Brantley single that eluded Jed Lowrie’s glove at shortstop. With the tying run at second base, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a hard liner that seemed destined for the left-field corner – but Josh Donaldson speared it for the second out and fired to second base to force pinch-runner Mike Aviles, ending the game on an acrobatic (and dramatic) 6-4 double play.
As mentioned earlier, the A’s picked up a full game on the Rangers in the A.L. West since Texas fell to the Seattle Mariners 3-1. Oakland now sits a half-game back of Texas in the division, and improved its record to 69-52.
Tomorrow night, Dan Straily (6-6, 4.19 ERA) will take on Ubaldo Jimenez (8-7, 4.11 ERA) at 6:05 p.m. PDT as the A’s will look to wrap up a series victory.