OAKLAND – Was it really as simple as a return home that cured the A’s sorrows for a day?
Whatever the reason, the A's looked like a new team in Monday’s 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in the opener of a three-game series at O.co Coliseum. Oakland came in having lost 16 of its previous 23, malfunctioning in every facet of the game often during that stretch. But it helps to get a solid starting pitching effort, and right-hander A.J. Griffin answered the call by throwing seven innings of one-run ball.
The Rangers came in riding high after a three-game sweep of the Astros and had won seven of their past nine. Surely they had fresh memories of their last visit to Oakland, when the A’s swept them and took the American League West title in the final series of the 2012 regular season. But it was the A’s who played like the team with the chip on its shoulder, at least for one night. They would do well to repeat Monday’s formula – solid starting pitching, drama-free bullpen work and just enough timely hitting.
Starting pitching report
A.J. Griffin (4-3) was stellar, going seven innings and allowing just a single run on six hits. He tied his season-high with eight strikeouts and didn’t issue a walk. His only mistake came when he served up a belt-high fastball that Mitch Moreland hit for a homer in the top of the second to break a scoreless tie. Texas hitters did not care for umpire Lance Barksdale’s strike zone, arguing vehemently after more than one called third strike. Irrelevant … Griffin stepped up and delivered in an important game for the A’s, who needed to boost their self-esteem after a 3-7 road trip.
Griffin lowered his ERA to 3.48, and he’s pitched six quality starts in eight outings this season.
There wasn’t a ton of pressure involved in this one, but Sean Doolittle shined, entering in the eighth and striking out the side. Ryan Cook handled the ninth, allowing a hit but salting away Griffin’s well-deserved victory.
At the plate
The A’s entered the night with just 11 home runs in 17 games at the Coliseum, but Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss made their home park look like a bandbox in the third inning. They both homered to dead center off Justin Grimm – the second time this season the A’s have gone deep back-to-back. The blasts had to be a load off each player’s shoulders. Cespedes had been in a 1 for 20 rut before his team-high seventh homer, and manager Bob Melvin said before the game that perhaps Cespedes had been pressing as a result of Oakland’s recent slide.
Moss had struck out in six – yes, six – consecutive at-bats before his homer. He unleashed some frustration on a 2-2 pitch from Grimm, mashing a ball that hit off the green facing well above the center field wall that put the A’s up 4-1 in the third. Oakland erased a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the second when Eric Sogard and John Jaso delivered two-out RBI singles up the middle, giving the A’s the lead for good.
Cespedes’ good vibes didn’t last long, as he left the game after the fourth inning due to a stomach illness.
[RELATED: Cespedes leaves A's game with stomach issue]
In the field
The A’s turned two double plays to aid Griffin’s cause.
The Rangers got the leadoff hitter on to start the game when Ian Kinsler singled. But he was thrown out on a steal attempt of second, when he stopped halfway between first and second for some reason and was easily tagged out heading back to first. It was an omen for Texas’ night.
The Coliseum was packed and rockin’ the last time the Rangers visited in October. The atmosphere was slightly different Monday, with just 11,030 in attendance. Plenty of leg room for all …
Bartolo Colon has hit a rough patch over his last three starts, surrendering 14 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings. He’ll try to get back on track Tuesday night, with Rangers lefty Derek Holland opposing him. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.