A’s wrap up bleak home campaign with strong finish
Bringing to an end what has been a horrendous home schedule, the A’s (67-88) erupted with a seven-run second inning. With six hits and a walk, the Oakland offense dispatched Colby Lewis, who made a run at perfection in his last start in the East Bay, after just 1-1/3 innings — matching the shortest outing of his career.
A’s starter Jharel Cotton enjoyed the best start of his career, allowing one run in 7 innings of work.
With their loss, the Rangers (92-64) fell into a tie with the Boston Red Sox for the American League’s top seed.
Manager Bob Melvin said winning the final home game of the season was a relief:
“I was nervous going into today — we haven’t lost a complete homestand before this year. That would have been kind of a [pause] cherry on top of a bad season. It’s nice to be able to go out there and score some runs, and have a good-feeling game.”
After scoring just eight runs through the first five games of their final home stand, the Oakland offense exploded in the second — a half-inning that lasted about 30 minutes and featured 10 A’s hitters, two replay reviews and 45 Texas pitches.
A pair of bloopers from Marcus Semien and Bruce Maxwell fell just out of reach of Ranger fielders after a line-drive single from Yonder Alonso, who scored on Maxwell’s hit, to put Brett Eibner in a two-on, no-out situation.
On a slow-rolling tapper, Eibner engaged in a foot race with Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland who, according to first base umpire Paul Nauert, tagged the A’s center fielder moments before reaching the base. After a coach’s challenge initiated by Melvin, the call stood, though Semien crossed the plate despite the out.
A walk and a single later Stephen Vogt became the first Oakland batter to drive the ball, sending a double into the right-field corner. While Maxwell and Matt Olson scored easily, the Ranger defense was able to force a play at the plate with Joey Wendle looking to score.
Wendle, who was called safe on the play, appeared to have been tagged prior to reaching the plate with a head-first dive. But, after challenge from Texas skipper Jeff Banister, it was decided that Jonathan Lucroy‘s tag attempt was made on the shoulder just late.
Ryon Healy delivered the finishing blow in the form of a two-run home run (12), giving the home club all the offense it would need, and get.
The rookie third baseman said it was “a lot of fun” to have a breakout offensive performance to end the home season:
“Obviously, whenever you score, it’s exciting. We were in a little bit of a drought the last couple days, but the bats definitely showed up today, and so did Jharel Cotton — that’s a great recipe for a victory.”
Lewis (L, 6-4, 3.93 ERA), who had twice previously been removed after getting just four out in a start — Aug. 27, 2003 at the Kansas City Royals and June 11, 2011 at Minnesota Twins — gave way to his bullpen after Healy’s big swing.
Rookie standouts Healy and Maxwell posted a game-high three hits apiece. Vogt’s three RBIs were a high for the afternoon.
Given the largest lump of run support in his young career, Cotton (W, 2-0, 1.44 ERA) was unfazed tossing a career-high 7 innings. He struck out five while allowing three hits. For the fourth time in as many starts, the 24 year-old surrendered one run, coming on a solo home run from Adrian Beltre (32).
The starter’s fantastic start played second fiddle to the It was far from lost on Melvin, though, who said:
“He continues to impress, all the way around: his composure; the mix of pitches; not afraid of the stage and who he’s facing. We have a good one here.”
“Today was a fun day. The guys came out and did their thing, and it was fun to pitch behind them.”
For the second consecutive season the Green and Gold finished the season 34-47 at home, matching the second-worst home record in Oakland franchise history.
Healy said he hopes that the performance is something that can lead to a better 2017:
“I think everybody had a deep exhale after we walked out of here, and gave one more positive note to leave on. Hopefully we can build on that and bring them some more positivity and victories next year.”
The Athletics finished will finish the season with an American League-low 288 runs scored at home — 3.56 runs per game. They have averaged 4.62 runs per game on the road. … With an average of 18,784 paid attendance per game, the Athletics finished their home season with 1,521,506 tickets sold. The second-lowest total in the league, Oakland beat only the Tampa Bay Rays (15,746) in average paid attendance. … With a third-inning single, Matt Olson became the fifth Oakland rookie to collect his first-career hit. Leading those rookies in the category is Healy (73), who since being called up has played his way into the AL Rookie of the Year race with a .303 average and 12 home runs. … Now trailing the Angels by 1 game for the fifth-place spot in the AL West, the A’s are in jeopardy of finishing in the division cellar in consecutive years for the second time in franchise history (1997-98).
The A’s now head to Southern California, where a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could decide the AL West’s 2016 last-place finishers. Sean Manaea (6-9, 4.03 ERA) will get the Monday start against Jered Weaver (12-12, 5.20 ERA.