Like cracking an egg, the Athletics proved Friday night there is more than one way to win a baseball game.
Out-hit, 9-4, and unable to solve the early riddle that was Texas starter Nick “Tricky” Martinez and his 5-plus ERA, the A’s (56-72) leaned all their weight onto ace Kendall “Digger” Graveman, who responded with 7 one-run frames of work.
While their pitcher, who had allowed 14 earned runs in 20-1/3 innings (6.20 ERA) since returning from a two-month stint on the disabled list silenced one of baseball’s most potent offense, Khris Davis, batting .077 (2-for-26) over the past six games, did the heavy lifting on the other end. The end result was 3-1 victory.
Martinez (L, 3-5, 5.26 ERA) held Oakland hitless into the fourth, and surrendered just three in his 7 frames. Two of those hits, though, were courtesy of the man with “Khrush” written on his back, and Davis “khrushed” both over the wall to give Digger all he would need to beat the Rangers (64-64).
The nicknames were part of Major League Baseball’s “Players Weekend,” which began Friday, and Khrush enjoyed it:
“I’d better live up to that name. It was fun, though. I just like to turn into that character when I’m on the field.”
The sinker-balling Digger (W, 4-4, 4.24 ERA) got some assistance from the Rangers, who ran into a pair of unconventional double play. The second, a line-out on a hit-and-run, was something much more common than the first.
An extremely aggressive base runner, Rougned “El Tipo” Odor broke baseball’s golden rule, costing Drew “Petey” Robinson a chance at a two-out RBI in the second attempting to swipe third following a ground-out to Matt “Chappy” Chapman. The return throw from Matt “Oly” Olson to Marcus “Mahkus” Semien beat El Tipo to the bag ending the threat.
The blunder came on the heels of a three-hit, one-run Texas first, ended by a much more conventional double play, and robbed the Rangers of their first chance to add on. They got at least one hit in each inning, but weren’t able to get another man in scoring position until the sixth, on a two-out triple by Robinson “Pelo Buche” Chirinos. But he, like the eight teammates before him, and one more after, could never get all the way around.
“I thought we mixed some pitches really well, tonight. I thought we threw the fastball down and away, and I thought our misses were very small.”
Manger Bob “BoMel” Melvin agreed that a more even mix of pitches were to his starter’s advantage, adding that, after 95 pitches, it was tempting to let him start the eighth:
“There was a little bit of an argument for him to go back out. He wanted to go back out and I just didn’t think he had enough pitches. And two of the first three guys (coming up) were the guys that did the damage off him.”
In the end, however, BoMel pulled Digger, who was making his fifth start since a two-month shoulder injury-related absence. That shoulder, he said, has incrementally improved until Friday’s outing:
“Tonight, I felt great, even the last pitch of the game. I think that’s a huge complement to our training staff and our strength coach that got me back healthy. There’s something to it, when you’re going out there wondering if you’re going to feel OK for the fifth, sixth, seventh inning.”
While Digger was dealing with scattered threats all night, Tricky remained mostly clear of them.
BoMel pointed to the Rangers starter’s ball-strike ratio, which hovered around an even split much of the night settling at 60-40, saying he was effectively wild while featuring a higher velocity than normal.
That wildness led to a one-out walk in the second, which amounted to the entirety of Oakland base runners through three. His early no-hit bid came to an abrupt end on a 2-0 fastball, with it went any shutout hopes — sailing over the left field wall for a solo home run (35) courtesy of Khrush. And three innings later, clinging to a one-hitter and 1-1 tie, Tricky was unable to dupe Khrush with a 1-2 curveball, instead leaving it out over the plate, and was left playing the fool on a second solo shot (36).
Khrush got his first two hits in nearly a week in the last two games of the A’s recent trip to Baltimore, one on Wednesday, their last game, being his first homer over the same stretch. He said:
“They come and go in bunches, so as long as I make those streaks last longer than the bad streaks I’ll be alright.”
Chappy added the insurance, with a bloop single to center scoring Matt “DJ SS” Joyce.
Chris “Hatch” Hatcher (H, 5, 4.22 ERA) and Blake “B-Lockay” Treinen (S, 9, 4.42 ERA), who posted Oakland’s lone clean frame of the night, made the four hits and three runs stand up, shutting the door.
Sean Manaea (8-8, 4.58 ERA) gets back on the mound looking to continue righting his ship following a 6-inning, three-run outing eight days prior. Before his most recent outing, the second-year lefty had allowed 13 earned runs in 6-2/3 innings pitched (17.55 ERA) spanning his previous three starts. He will face Texas ace Cole Hamels (9-1, 3.42 ERA)
Utility man Mark Canha was recalled from Triple-A Nashville prior to the game, filling the vacancy left in the A’s 25-man roster after the trade of Rajai Davis to the Boston Red Sox. Canha is slashing .210/.259/.410 with four home runs and 10 RBIs over 34 games with Oakland this season. … Paul Blackburn (3-1, 3.22 ERA), who was hit in the arm with a batted ball Tuesday, was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a contusion. Michael Brady (0-0, 4.56 ERA) was recalled to fill his spot on the roster.
Prior to the game, former Athletic and MLB Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley was honored with the dedication of the Oakland Coliseum D Gate, now renamed the “Dennis Eckersley Gate.” He said:
“I’m a Bay Area kid at heart. This is where I come from. There’s something about growing up here, and coming back. … The older that you get, the more — you reflect a lot more and you understand it means so much more.”