ARLINGTON, Texas – At long last the A’s bagged a victory Friday night, suffering more stress than was necessary and potentially losing a key pitcher in the process.
They watched nearly all of a seven-run lead disappear in the bottom of the eighth after Brett Anderson left the game with back spasms. But they held on for a 9-8 win over the Texas Rangers in the opener of this pivotal three-game series at Rangers Ballpark.
[RELATED: Anderson leaves game with back spasms]
The game was a one-sided slugfest for most of the night thanks to an A’s offense that continued its hitting-happy ways. But the Rangers scored six runs in the eighth to close to within a run. And that rally only got snuffed out because of a blown call by third-base umpire Sam Holbrook. Alex Rios was called out trying to go from first to third on a single and clearly beat the throw from left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
Rios was ejected on the play, and Texas pitcher Matt Garza would later get ejected in the ninth inning for arguing from the dugout.
It took Sean Doolittle registering a four-out save to close out the A’s 14th win in their past 18 games. They opened up a 4 ½ game lead over Texas in the American League West with the wild victory.
Starting pitching report
Dan Straily was staked to a 3-0 lead before he even took the mound for the bottom of the first. He responded by walking his first two hitters of the inning and allowing two runs. That suggested a back-and-forth slugfest might be forthcoming, but the rookie right-hander settled down. After giving up Adrian Beltre’s RBI single in the first, Straily (10-7) retired 15 of his next 17 hitters stretching into the sixth inning. One of the two runners that reached was a result of third baseman Josh Donaldson’s fielding error on Ian Kinsler’s bouncer.
He was pulled after loading the bases with two outs in the sixth, leaving lots of work for his bullpen. But his night was a success because he didn’t lose a handle on things after the shaky first. Straily has won his past four starts and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of them.
Anderson entered in the eighth, looking to protect a seemingly out-of-reach 9-2 lead. It all went downhill after he left the game after walking Adrian Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski. Texas proceeded to score six runs in the inning off four A’s pitchers. A seven-run advantage suddenly became one run. Anderson, Jesse Chavez and Ryan Cook all were charged with runs as the Rangers batted around and took advantage of five hits and three walks.
Doolittle put the tying run on second base with two outs in the ninth but he struck out Jurickson Profar looking on a 95 mph fastball to end it.
At the plate
Rangers lefty Derek Holland (9-9) came in winless in his previous eight starts at home. He did himself no favors early on, piping an 0-2 pitch that Yoenis Cespedes crushed to left-center for a three-run homer in the first. The A’s left fielder now has 13 RBI in 12 games this month, and his September batting average is .404.
It was important that Oakland continued to build on its lead after Texas answered with two runs in the bottom of the first. Josh Donaldson blasted Holland’s first pitch of the third over the left field wall for a homer, then he lined a two-run double in the fourth to push the A’s lead to 6-2
It’s hard to imagine a more productive No. 2 hitter in the game than Donaldson right now. He has eight multi-hit games in his past 16. During that stretch, he’s batting .383 with 12 RBI. Opponents have come to expect damage from him. Add Cespedes’ hot hitting to the mix, along with leadoff man Coco Crisp and No. 3 hitter Jed Lowrie, and the A’s have a terrific thing going in the top half of their lineup.
When a couple hitters get going, everyone seems to want in on the fun. Each hitter in Oakland’s lineup had a hit by the sixth, and the A’s kept adding on to their lead, which wound up being important.
Brandon Moss, who didn’t start but entered as a pinch hitter for Nate Freiman in the fourth, bashed his team-leading 27th homer in the sixth.
In the field
Donaldson committed the game’s only error.
A fireworks crowd of 40,180 wound up getting a more entertaining game than they expected.
Bartolo Colon (15-6, 2.85) tries to build on an impressive effort from his last start. But the bigger question in Saturday’s 10:05 a.m. matchup is whether the A’s can continue their mastery of Yu Darvish (12-8, 2.84). The right-hander is 1-5 with a 4.86 ERA in six career starts against Oakland.