A’s win big using small ball

OAKLAND COLISEUM — The Athletics jumped out to a three run lead and never looked back, as they defeated the Texas Rangers 4-2 on Saturday and pushed their American League West division lead back to 3-1/2 games.

Yoenis Cespedes crushed his 17th home run of the year, a two-run blast in the first inning, and Jarrod Parker (7-6, 4.02) gave Oakland six strong innings and a quality start in the victory.

Oakland began the game a little unconventionally – with back-to-back bunts. Coco Crisp bunted for a single to lead off the bottom of the first and Eric Sogard bunted him to second. Jed Lowrie singled home Crisp before Cespedes launched a ball to left-center to give the A’s a quick 3-0 lead. Bob Melvin said that it was crucial to get runs on the board early against a guy like Matt Garza:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

Video: CSN California

“It’s big. You want to get off to a good start…There are some times before the starting pitcher gets comfortable in doing his thing, you’ve got a chance to score some runs off of him. So we played a little small ball early and Yoenis’ hit was huge for us.”

Sogard added another bunt in the seventh – a safety squeeze to score Alberto Callaspo  – to give Oakland its fourth and final run. Garza was clearly unhappy that Sogard chose to bunt in that situation, yelling expletives at him from the mound, but Sogard insists that it’s all just part of the game:

A’s shortstop Eric Sogard

Video: CSN California

“It’s kind of heat of the moment, for sure. Obviously we scored the run, so he’s not going to be happy anytime that happens, but we’re happy about it.”

The Rangers attempted to climb their way back into the game on an RBI single by Adrian Beltre in the third and a solo home run by Ian Kinsler in the fifth, but those were the only runs they’d be able to scratch across against Oakland pitching.

Parker threw 107 pitches in his six innings of work, allowing six hits, two runs, two walks, and striking out six. Despite not having his best stuff early, he settled into a rhythm and held the Rangers at bay. Parker also acknowledged the playoff type atmosphere whenever these two teams face each other:

A’s pitcher Jarrod Parker

Video: CSN California

“We know anytime we’re playing somebody within the division, we need those games. Obviously, they’re right behind us, and we know we need to put together nine complete innings. If it takes more than that, it’s gonna take more than that I think for us to come out and set the tone early, score some runs, and be upbeat. I think that’s a big thing for us right now.”

For Texas, starter Matt Garza (7-2, 3.09, Texas and Chicago Cubs) actually outlasted Parker and was more efficient with his pitch-count. Garza tossed a complete game (eight innings) on 114 pitches, striking out five and walking only one. The four runs on eight hits, however, were enough to earn him his first loss as a Ranger.

Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook kept Texas off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth innings, and Grant Balfour closed it out for his 29th save.

Notes:

Oakland snapped its three game losing streak and have not lost more than three consecutive games since losing five straight from May 6-10. … Parker remains unbeaten in his last 12 starts, setting a new career high with five straight wins. … Brandon Moss extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the first inning. … Sogard extended his career-high hitting streak to 11 games and is 15-for-41 (.366) during the streak.