A’s sweep Rangers as bats catch fire

Jumping out to an early lead, the Oakland Athletics completed a sweep of the Texas Rangers behind another solid outing from Rich Hill, Wednesday.

With the 8-1 win, the A’s (19-22) completed their third sweep of the season — the first at home.

The Rangers (22-19), who came to Oakland leading the division, got 7 innings of four-run ball from starter Martin Perez (1-4, 3.54 ERA) who took the loss. Hill allowed just three hits and one run over 6 innings to take the win.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the A’s clubhouse at the Oakland Coliseum.

The offensive attack was paced by Tuesday’s walk-off hero Khris Davis who hit his fourth homer of the series, adding a single and two walks. The sixth-inning solo blast was his ninth in the month of May — No. 12 of the season. It was also his MLB-leading 32nd since Aug. 6, 2015.

Manager Bob Melvin is enamored with Davis’ recent power rush:

“I’ve been known to be a little superstitious, so I at times don’t like to talk about these things. But it seems like every time he puts the barrel on it, it leaves the ballpark. The numbers would suggest that as well. It’s impressive.”

The outfielder’s four-homer series comes on the heels of a five-bomb set from Danny Valencia. The third baseman said a power surge of that magnitude was just as “surreal” to watch as it was to display:

“It’s amazing. It’s been a lot of fun to watch. People don’t realize how hard it is, and right now he’s making it look really easy… It’s pretty special, and it’s something you can’t take for granted because you don’t see it too often.”

Hill (W, 6-3, 2.54 ERA), who said he has also been in awe of Davis, took advantage of an excellent fastball-curveball combination to baffle the American League’s second-highest scoring offense.

With his six strikeouts — three apiece with the fastball and curveball, all swinging — the veteran lefty pushed his season total to 59 (T-5 AL). He also boasts the junior circuit’s eighth-best ERA and is tied for the second-most wins.

Of his first home win as an Athletic, Hill said “aggressive conviction” is the key:

“Just to go out there and be consistent. That’s the key… The point is, to go out there and stay in the moment — make every pitch as competitive as you can — at the end of the outing you can look back and say ‘I had the ball come out of my had the way I wanted to more often than not.'”

Despite his dominance,  however, Hill was not the main attraction.

After three runs in the first, and the sixth-inning home run from Davis, the Oakland offense removed all doubt with four runs in the eighth. Lashing out four hits and drawing two walks, along with a sacrifice fly, the A’s sent nine hitters to the plate.

Green and Gold-clad hitters combined to go 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a situation that has plagued them through the first month-and-a-half of the season. They also added an RBI walk and the sac fly in those situations.

Valencia who leads the team in batting average (.357), on-base percentage (.393) and slugging percentage (.607) had a single and a run scored as part of the rally. He finished the day with three hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.

The A’s 4-5 hitters — Valencia and Davis — finished the series with 10 hits in 20 at-bats, eight runs and 12 RBIs.

Said Valencia:

“We’ve been fortunate enough to hit the ball hard when we’ve gotten good pitches to hit. It a lot of fun, obviously, when you’re scoring like that, and you’re performing like that. The middle of the order is the part of the order that we need to do some damage, and luckily we’ve been doing it. And it has been nice, because it has translated into some wins for us.”

Leading the charge alongside Davis and Valencia was shortstop Marcus Semien with two hits and two RBIs.

Hill was removed after the sixth, with a high pitch count once again being his undoing. But the duo of Fernando Rodriguez (1-0, 1.54 ERA) and Andrew Triggs (0-0, 3.38 ERA) combined for three innings of one-hit shutout relief slamming the door.

The A’s now switch their sights to the New York Yankees, who come to Oakland for a four-game weekend series. Thursday’s Game 1 features starters Kendall Graveman (1-5, 5.84 ERA) and Ivan Nova (2-1, 3.70 ERA), as the home team looks for their fourth-straight win over the Yanks.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.