A’s swept by rival Rangers

In a game that even was less competitive than the lopsided 8-1 final score might suggest, the Texas Rangers completed a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

Unable to sustain any rallies, the A’s sent out a total of seven pitchers who were bombarded with 13 Rangers hits. Aside from a productive game by right fielder Josh Reddick, Oakland put up little fight, scoring their sole run on an error.

The sweep allowed the Rangers (83-69) to creep even closer to their goal of an AL West title, although the A’s (64-89) boasts a season series victory over Texas – their third time doing so in the last four seasons.

After the game, A’s manger Bob Melvin spoke about the Rangers, whose magic number to clinch the AL West crown now lies at seven:

“They have a good team, no doubt, and they have great veteran leadership. Everybody is healthy again this year, and whether it’s (Adrian) Betlre, (Prince) Fielder, (Shin-Soo) Choo, (Elvis) Andrus, they have a lot of guys who have been there before.”

Oakland starter Chris Bassitt (1-7, 3.07 ERA) lasted just three innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits, in the loss. The Rangers sent out midseason acquisition Cole Hamels (11-8, 3.56 ERA) who got the win, going six innings and allowing just an unearned run on four hits.

Bassitt, who may have been in the strike zone too much early on, allowed hits to three of the first four Rangers hitters, giving up what would be the winning run on an RBI single by third baseman Beltre in the first.

With 36 of 47 pitches in the first two innings going for strikes, Bassitt allowed the Rangers to get aggressive early in the count and watched five line drives put in play the first trip through the Rangers order.

The Oakland offense had problems of its own as Hamels used an excellent cutter-change up combination to fool overaggressive A’s hitters all afternoon, needing only 87 pitches to get through six strong.

The work of Texas’ starter impressed Oakland’s skipper:

“He’s got that cutter that can induce ground balls. He can paint you away. He’s got a good changeup to get you off the end of the bat. It felt like we had him on the ropes, it didn’t look like he had his great stuff today, but any time he really needed to make a pitch and get out of a jam, he made a good pitch and kept it on the ground, and got a double play.”

Though he collected only two strikeouts, Hamels kept the Oakland offense off-balance to the tune of nine groundouts, including four double-play groundouts.

Only Rangers’ centerfielder Delino DeShields’ inability to make a running, waist-high catch at the 30-yard line allowed the A’s to get on the scoreboard.

After the Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the top of the second, Reddick trickled a 2-2 fastball down the third base line for an infield single.

The bearded outfielder then swiped both second and third base with a pair of uncontested steals.

With Reddick now at third, left fielder Jake Smolinski lifted a 3-2 cutter into centerfield. DeShields, who has great speed, was able to get under the bloop but had the ball rattle out of his leather.

Reddick scampered home on what was ruled an error.

With his two steals Reddick (.273 AVG, 75 RBIs) now has 10 on the season, just one shy of his career high – 11 in 2012 — along with his homer in Wednesday night’s game, number 20 — Reddick’s productive season continued with one hit in two at bats with one walk.

With a line-drive double into the leftfield corner in the seventh inning, Oakland designated hitter Billy Butler collected career hit number 1,400.

Melvin discussed the milestones reached by the two players:

“You’re always trying to find something that can motivate you to the end, whether its milestones or certainly wins for the team.”

Even in being saddled with his seventh loss on the campaign, and despite lasting only three innings, both Bassitt himself and Melvin were happy with his performance.

The skipper pointed to the 75-pitch limit the 26-year-old righty was on as the reason for him being lifted, saying that he wasn’t hit especially hard aside from a booming double by outfielder Choo in the first.

About the outing, Bassitt said:

“Physically I felt really good. I was just, I’d say, rusty and I was a little bit up. Instead of easy outs or easy groundballs I was getting weak fly balls that turned into hits. It happens. But, for not throwing for a month, I’m OK with it.”

After Bassitt’s removal, Pat Venditte, Fernando Rodriguez, Arnold Leon and Dan Otero combined for 3.1 innings of scoreless work out of the bullpen. Fernando Abad and Cody Martin allowed fiver runs in their 2.2 innings, however.

In the victory, Rangers’ DH Fielder hit homer number 22 and knocked in RBI numbers 85 and 86 on the season.

Now on a five-game losing skid, The A’s will have to lick their wounds and prepare for a weekend three-game series with the cross-bay rival San Francisco Giants.

Friday’s 7:05 p.m. start at O.co Coliseum will pit Oakland ace Sonny Gray (13-7, 2.72 ERA) with Giants mid-season acquisition Mike Leake (10-9, 3.81 ERA).