OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson plays baseball like he should be wearing football pads, fitting since the Coliseum field is often covered with yard-line stripes this time of year.
His intensity was on display throughout the A’s 5-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. That reckless abandon was symbolic of the battle that awaits between Oakland and Texas over the final 24 games of the regular season.
The opener of this three-game series suggested that all momentum rests with the A’s. They notched a 4-2 win Monday and continued gathering their momentum. On Tuesday, the Rangers countered. They knocked Bartolo Colon from the game after five innings, knocked out 13 hits and stood their ground – literally -- when the A’s took their best shot.
That came courtesy of Donaldson in the third inning. He made an ill-advised decision to try scoring from second on Yoenis Cespedes’ infield single to shortstop. Jurickson Profar made the stop and threw home in plenty of time to nail Donaldson, who barreled into Texas catcher A.J. Piernzynski in an effort to jar the ball loose.
Pierzynski appeared to take offense, brushing Donaldson with his glove. But Donaldson -- a running back during his high school days in Daphne, Ala. -- said he didn’t think there was any lingering ill will.
“When I came up for my third at-bat, I said ‘Hey, are you OK?’” Donaldson said afterward. “He’s like, ‘Yeah,’ and asked me if I was OK. Hopefully there’s no hard feelings. That was only play I really had there because I made a bonehead mistake. Hopefully I’ll learn from it for tomorrow.”
That play had to have Bob Melvin rubbing his forehead, but the A’s manager can live with it when the trade-off is the play like Donaldson made in the top of the sixth. He ran full-speed after David Murphy’s pop foul, dove headfirst over the rolled-up tarp along the third-base wall and made the catch as he slid over the tarp and fell in the crease between the tarp and the wall.
It was the second such catch Donaldson has made this season, and Melvin was asked if he gets nervous when his third baseman exhibits such kamikaze behavior.
“That one (made him nervous) because he ended up in between it,” Melvin said. “That's the way he plays. That was a hell of a play. You're not going to see too many plays better than that.”
Expect the spirited play to continue between these clubs over their final four meetings of the season. The winner of Wednesday’s matinee at the Coliseum captures the three-game series, and perhaps takes the psychological edge until the teams stage another three-game series at Rangers Ballpark from Sept. 13-15.
Donaldson, who doubled twice Tuesday, will be a key figure. He’s hitting .292 with 19 home runs and a team-high 77 RBI. Consider him an inspirational leader as well when he hurls his body around as he did Tuesday night.
“I try to play that way every day,” Donaldson said. “I hope it’s nothing different for anybody who watches our games (regularly). I think I’m a pretty aggressive guy.”
The A’s, as a team, will need to tap into that same aggression if they’re to repeat as A.L. West champs.
As the Rangers have shown, they won’t be fading away.