A’s muscled aside by AL West-leading Rangers

The A’s couldn’t stop the bleeding Tuesday night, even after averaging a run per inning through the first five.

Oakland starter Sean Nolin was charged with five earned runs, and each A’s reliever after Nolin, save switch pitcher Pat Venditte, allowed one run each as the Rangers smothered Oakland 8-6.

Nolin (ND, 1-1, 4.57 ERA) wasn’t prepared for the American League West leaders, who were a losing team at the trade deadline before resurfacing as a true contender.

Martin Perez (ND, 3-5, 5.21 ERA), a part of Texas’ mid-summer resurgence, was chased out early, allowing four runs over four innings.

Young outfielder Jake Smolinski knocked in two RBI, the first on a triple and the last on a fielder’s choice. Marcus Semien sent home Smolinski with a triple of his own, and first baseman Mark Canha singled, scoring catcher Carson Blair.

But the Rangers tormented the Oakland bullpen after Nolin allowed a Mitch Moreland homer, scoring outfielder Will Venable, tying the score at 5-5.

Infielder Delino DeShields hit two sacrifice flies, one in the sixth inning and one in the eighth inning, scoring Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus, with Odor also knocking in Andrus on a single.

Drew Pomeranz (L, 5-6, 3.48 ERA)was hung with the loss and Chi Chi Gonzalez (W, 4-5, 3.84 ERA) tabbed for the win.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said:

“It wasn’t the best played game in the world. … At times we had good at-bats, other times we didn’t. Some times we made some good defensive plays, other times, we didn’t. Not a real consistent game.”

Nolin is competing for a preliminary roster spot for the 2016 season, though he says he doesn’t think about it that way. His competition is everywhere, the A’s have plenty of young arms that can throw 100 pitches with regularity.

Chris Bassit, Aaron Brooks, Kendall Graveman Jesse Hahn, Sonny Gray, being the top five, though there are others that will surface as the offseason rolls on. Maybe even top pitching prospect Sean Manaea.

Oakland’s offense has rebounded from the awful first half which saw the A’s slip from perennial contenders to the bottom of baseball’s standings, and Tuesday was evidence of continued improvement.

But another major problem this season factored into this ballgame too, as the bullpen allowed everything that a previous A’s bullpen wouldn’t.

The A’s currently have the worst bullpen ERA in the American League, and will likely finish the season with the dunce cap on top of the left field bullpen’s shade.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

The A’s also have the fewest saves in baseball, 24, and will undoubtedly finish the season last in that category as well. Oakland’s bullpen is second-worst in blown saves and 25th in opponents OPS.

They have not improved there. Not at all.

For Nolin, the A’s seem to see something. Melvin noted his ability to switch speeds with his fastball, and likes his mix of pitches.

Said Melvin:

“He’s pitched pretty well since he’s been here with us.”

The pitch that Melvin thinks Nolin would want back, despite allowing runs on others, is the home run to Moreland. Nolin threw a slide-step fastball that was up, he says he was trying to go in with it, but that it got away from him.

Nolin considers his stretch with the A’s to be a good one, though he wasn’t pleased with his start on Tuesday night:

“I didn’t execute pitches that much and got behind of batters and both people I walked ended up scoring.”

Nolin can hang his head, but he’s proven his worth as a candidate to hold down the back end of Oakland’s rotation. He’s gone five or more innings in each of his four starts, and allowed no more than three runs in his first three, six total in those 11-2/3 innings in green and gold.

But the bullpen remains a problem, and though the team was without Sean Doolittle for the bulk of the season, the A’s might have some thoughts on moving one of their back-end arms to add a reliever or two.

The A’s bullpen allowed enough tonight to make some late scratching and clawing more like batting practice.

Because of that, the Rangers were able to solidify their lead in the West, and will keep their eyes focused on that objective as Colby Lewis takes the mound against Oakland’s Felix Doubront Wednesday night.


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