After Bartolo Colon repeatedly navigated out of trouble in the early innings, the Texas Rangers finally got to the veteran in the fifth.
The Rangers jumped out to a 4-1 advantage as they plated three unearned runs during the frame. With his fastball barely cracking 90 mph, the 40-year-old right hander looked more like his second-half version than the pitcher who had reeled off 12 wins by the All-Star Break.
“It’s not like they knocked him around,” said manager Bob Melvin after the game. “Quite a few bloop hits. I thought it was pretty similar [to his last start].”
The A’s record now stands at 79-59 (.572) after dropping game two of the series to the AL West rivals. Oakland sits one game back of the Rangers, who improve to 80-58 (.580). Colon (14-6, 2.90 ERA) was making his second start off the DL, and finished his night going five innings allowing four runs (one earned) on eight hits while striking out three.
The righty immediately found himself in trouble. With runners on the corners and one out in the first inning, Colon got Adrian Beltre to strikeout on a fastball in the dirt. Then A.J. Pierzkynski lined out on a deep drive to center field as Colon worked out of a scoreless first inning.
In the bottom half of the first, Coco Crisp clubbed a double to left field to start things off for the A’s. Crisp then moved up to third base on a fly ball off the bat of Josh Donaldson before giving Oakland a 1-0 advantage when he crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly to right field from Jed Lowrie. Crisp, who left Monday night’s game after hitting a foul ball off his shin, appeared to be moving just fine on the bases.
Colon got into another jam in the third inning. With one out and runners on second and third, though, the right-hander got Ian Kinsler swinging on a pitch way off the plate. Then Beltre grounded out to third base to end the threat.
With one out in the third, Donaldson drove a double to right field that one-hopped the wall. Donaldson then tried to score from second on a hard hit ground ball from Yoenis Cespedes that shortstop Jurickson Profar speared. Donaldson was easily thrown out at the plate, and his effort to bowl over Pierzynski was unsuccessful.
“I made a bonehead mistake,” said Donaldson after the game. “Once I hit third base I started breaking it down, but I thought I heard ‘Go.’ Obviously it wasn’t [third base coach Mike] Gallego.”
The Rangers pulled even in the fourth as Mitch Moreland clubbed his 22nd home run off the steps in right field to make it 1-1. The drive was Moreland’s fifth of the year at the O.co Coliseum, which ties the record for opposing batters.
In the fifth, Colon was made to pay for all the base runners he had allowed in the early innings. Texas claimed a 2-1 lead as Profar doubled down the line in right. Gentry scored all the way from first as the ball kicked off the wall and away from Choice. Gentry had reached base on an error after he chopped a grounder off the glove of Colon.
“That’s routine,” said Colon of the miscue. “That one play made the difference.”
With two runners on after Colon had clanked yet another grounder, Beltre came to the plate. The Rangers grabbed a third run as Beltre was retired on a fielders choice, and then tacked on a fourth as Pierzynski served a single into shallow center field. Choice then made a sliding catch in right to end the inning and keep the score at 4-1.
In the bottom half of the fifth, Choice picked up his first MLB hit on a swinging bunt that was fielded by the pitcher.
“It’s going to end up looking like a line drive in the box score,” said Melvin.
Jerry Blevins came on for the sixth, and got the first two outs of the inning. The second came when Donaldson made an unbelievable catch in foul territory. As he tracked down the pop-up off the bat of David Murphy, the third baseman leapt and fell into the gap between the padded wall and the tarp, which rests between the dugout and bullpen.
“That’s the way he plays” commented Melvin when asked if he’s ever concerned by the aggressive approach of his third baseman. “That’s a hell of a play. You’re not going to see too many plays better than that.”
Donaldson added: ”I’m willing to give up my body, and I was fortunate enough to make the play tonight.”
Jesse Chavez, who hadn’t pitched since August 23, then entered to end the sixth inning before working a scoreless seventh as well. Chavez gave up a home run to Alex Rios to begin the eighth, and to end his night as the Rangers increased the lead to 5-1.
Pedro Figueroa, who had been just recalled from the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on Sunday, then came on to make his season-debut. The left-hander allowed a walk and a double to the only two batters he faced before getting lifted. Former A’s infielder Adam Rosales came on to pinch hit in the eighth, and ended up flying out. The at-bat was just Rosales’ ninth as a Ranger.
After rallying in the first, the A’s were never able to get anything going against Martin Perez (9-3, 3.41 ERA). The lefty had won his last five starts entering the game, and went seven innings allowing just one run on eight hits while striking out five A’s batters.
“He’s pitching with a lot of confidence,” noted Melvin. “He’s probably one of their better starters at this point. He’s a pretty heralded guy, as far as a prospect goes.”
In game three of the series, the A’s will send out Jarrod Parker (10-6, 3.59 ERA) for his 28th start of the season. The right-hander is 8-0 with a 2.57 ERA over his last 17 starts. That unbeaten streak is tied with Catfish Hinter for the Oakland record. The 24-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his career against the Rangers, and is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts against Texas in 2013.
Parker actually beat Yu Darvish, who he’ll be matched up against, back in June at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Darvish (12-6, 2.73 ERA) hasn’t won any of his past three starts, but he’s gone at least six innings and given up three runs or less in all of them. The righty leads all of baseball with 236 strikeouts.