Following a successful road trip that saw the A’s go 4-3 and take 3-of-4 from the AL-best Detroit Tigers, the A’s returned to the Oakland Coliseum for a showdown of potential postseason opponents in the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.
At 75-57 for the Rays, compared to the A’s 75-58 record entering the game, the Rays were just percentage points ahead of the A’s for a half game lead for the first Wild Card position. Shortly into the contest the scoreboard revealed that the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers had all lost, representing a huge opportunity for Oakland to gain ground on their division rival Rangers as well distance themselves from their Wild Card competition.
Oakland didn’t squander their opportunity, winning 4-3 and improving to 76-58, a half-game ahead of the Rays in the Wild Card, five games better than the Indians and 5.5 games ahead of the Orioles and Yankees. They are now just two games back of the Rangers for the AL West Division lead.
In the Friday night battle of aces, the A’s opened the series by sending Jarrod Parker (10-8, 3.76 ERA) against the former Cy Young winner, David Price (8-5, 3.28 ERA). Parker has been outstanding over his past 16 starts, going 8-0 while the A’s have gone 10-6 in those games. The no-decision leaves him 8-0 over his past 17 starts.
Not that the A’s could have possibly planned it, but Price found his normal game-day routine a bit delayed as he chose to take a cab to the stadium from downtown San Francisco rather than BART or the team bus because of the Bay Bridge closure this weekend. His decision took him over two hours and cost him $202 to get to the game. The team bus took an hour and forty minutes even with a partial police escort though, so the cab really wasn’t much worse off aside from the minimal drain it represented to his wallet. And based on his performance through the first 4.1 innings, it really didn’t affect his play at all either, so it really only makes for an interesting side story.
Manager Bob Melvin loaded his lineup with right-handed batters to face off against the left handed Price. The only left handed hitter in the lineup was the red-hot Brandon Moss, who had homered seven times in his past 10 games. Melvin dropped him to eighth in the lineup to keep his bat in the lineup, although, there were no other right-handed options available either.
Loading the lineup with right-handed hitters also meant a start for the recently re-acquired Kurt Suzuki behind the dish rather than Stephen Vogt. Suzuki, an Oakland fan-favorite before his trade last fall to the Washington Nationals, immediately ingratiated himself again to the home crowd. In his first at-bat home in the bottom of the third inning, he lined a single to right fielder and former A’s teammate David DeJesus for what would be only the second A’s hit at that point. In the fifth inning, his second at-bat back in green and gold in Oakland, he launched a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Price off the stairs in left field to give the A’s a 3-1 lead.
Welcome home Kurt Suzuki.
The A’s are now 5-3 since Suzuki rejoined the team, and would be 6-2 had it not been for a heartbreaking walk-off loss in the series finale against the Tigers on Thursday. Suzuki has gone for 6-for-15, including his 2-for-3 performance tonight, since returning, good for a .400 batting average with four RBI.
Having only surrendered one run to this point on a Yunil Escobar RBI single in the second inning, Parker went back to work with the two-run lead following Suzuki’s bomb and did not disappoint.
Parker lasted into the eighth inning but exited with a pair of runners on base and no outs. Ryan Cook, entering in relief, allowed both inherited runners to score. Cook limited the damage to just the two-runs though, and exited the frame with the score tied.
Parker’s final line was seven innings-pitched, three earned runs, six hits, three walks and three strikeouts on 108 pitches.
The A’s re-took the lead in the bottom half of the frame on a line-drive double down the first base line by Jed Lowrie (1-for-4) to score Coco Crisp from second. Crisp (1-for-4) reached base against Price before Joel Peralta took over, and represented the final tally on Price’s pitching line.
The former Cy Young winner finished with a pitching line of seven innings pitched, four runs (three earned) on six hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
Grant Balfour, fresh off his second blown save of the season in Thursday’s heart-breaker, entered the game in the ninth and shut the door on the Rays for his 34th save of the season. Cook was credited with the win.
Josh Donaldson extended his hitting streak to six games with a pair of doubles in his 2-for-4 performance. Over his six-game streak, he is hitting .348 (8-for-23). Donaldson returning to his form from earlier in the season is a good sign for the A’s they look to heat up for a September run at the Division title and a deeper run into October.
Up next, the A’s will send Sonny Gray (1-2, 3.18 ERA) to the hill to face off against Alex Cobb (8-2, 2.87 ERA) on Saturday. Following the game, the A’s will have a postgame firework display set to the music of Bay Area rock band Green Day.
Check back soon for updates with quotes from Bob Melvin, Jed Lowrie, Jarrod Parker and Kurt Suzuki.