Rangers tap long ball to power past A’s, Gray

The Oakland Athletics were once again undone by the power of the Texas Rangers, as they fell to the division leader 7-5 on Wednesday.

The Rangers (41-25) scored five of their seven runs on long balls, in the come-from-behind victory. Surrendering two of Texas’ four bombs, Sonny Gray saw a stellar start turn dark in the sixth as he coughed up a five-run lead before handing the ball to the bullpen.

The A’s (27-38) were able to knock out Rangers starter Derek Holland (5-5, 5.14 ERA) in the fourth. But they were unable to figure out the Texas bullpen, which was paced by a 2-1/3 inning scoreless performance from Nick Martinez (W, 1-1, 3.38 ERA).

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

Gray (ND, 3-6, 5.54 ERA) said that there was a breeze of confidence which was swept from the home dugout after watching the lead evaporate:

“Leading 5-0 through five innings, we’re pretty much every time coming away with a win there. In the dugout, everyone was expecting to win the game … The home runs really, really killed us.”

With their ace in overpowering form early, the offense looked to have given the its starter sufficient run support, putting up five quick runs.

Jake Smolinski opened the scoring with a two-run home run (3) in the third. After an RBI base hit from Danny Valencia later in the end, the Oakland offense added two more on a double from Billy Burns in the fourth.

Dominant through five frames, allowing just three hits, Gray was at an absence of a swing-and-miss pitch, and his inability to put guys away caught up to him. Finishing with just three strikeouts, the righty was tagged with five hits and five runs in his sixth and final inning.

Since his return from the DL, Sonny has seen strong starts stunted late. He said that it is now up to him to tweak his approach as he reaches the later innings:

“It’s something I’m going to have to learn from going forward… The third time through the order, I’m going to have to start mixing (pitches) a lot more.”

Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos triggered the late-inning comeback with a lead-off home run (3) in the sixth. Following RBIs from Ian Desmond and Prince Fielder the inning was capped off by Rougned Odor who sent an opposite-field liner into the left-field seats for a two-run homer (11).

Manager Bob Melvin said that he was as surprised as anyone, given the performance of his starter in the early goings:

“Great stuff. Good movement. Throwing the ball where he wanted to. Great breaking ball(s) — both slider and curve. I’ve seen him shut that team out before with that type of stuff, that’s why it was kind of shocking that all of a sudden, in one inning, they’re starting to get some swings on him that you hadn’t seen all game.”

Chirinos struck again with a seventh-inning solo (4) blast off of John Axford (L, 3-2, 2.96 ERA). Odor added another (12) of his own, in the eighth off Sean Doolittle (1-2, 2.67 ERA).

The offense, which had been pungent, scoring five runs between the third and fourth innings, was unable to re-gather the momentum of the early innings going quietly into the night.

According the skipper, the swing in momentum did not affect the offense, however:

“It gets your attention, (but) it shouldn’t (change anything). Their best pitchers came in the game after that — their 7-8-9 guys — and there will be a difference when you have stuff guys in the game like that.”

Melvin’s squad will look for his offense, which has scored 25 runs through the first three games of the series, to score more game four.

Daniel Mengden (0-1, 3.18 ERA) will make his home debut for the A’s, looking for his first career win and a series split with the division rival. The mustached one will be opposed by Ranger righty Colby Lewis (5-0, 3.00 ERA) in the Oakland afternoon tilt.


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.