Riding a five-run fourth and 6-1/3 dominant innings from its bullpen, Oakland captured a 7-3, sweep-sealing victory from the Rangers Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum to move 30 games over .500.
For the second time this season, Texas borrowed the “opener” concept devised in Tampa and used by the Athletics three times this home stand. But a strong three-inning effort turned in by rookie southpaw Jeffrey Springs was flipped inside-out when scheduled starter Ariel Jurado couldn’t survive Oakland’s fourth.
Trevor Cahill, who started the game for the A’s (87-57), wasn’t much better than Jurado, getting just two outs into third before a season high six walks forced his removal. Still, Oakland lowered its magic number for a playoff berth to 12 with a second series sweep of the season over the Rangers (61-82) to clinch a 13-6 record against the divisional foe.
Cahill (ND, 6-3, 3.77 ERA) said it was a grind for him from the first pitch he threw, a ball to Texas leadoff man Delino DeShields. He added that watching the offense and bullpen work has become something to behold:
“You see it out there and it’s just crazy how deep it is. You’ve got great pitchers coming in. … With our offense and those guys covering us, it’s why we’re 30 games over now.”
Seven Oakland relievers, including Shawn Kelley (W, 2-0, 2.49 ERA) who escaped Cahill’s third-inning mess then tossed a perfect fourth to push his scoreless inning streak as an Athletic to 11 innings, went 6-1/3 holding the Rangers to two hits and no runs. Also among that group was Jeury Familia, who had struggled in his last three outings before working a perfect eighth Sunday.
Manager Bob Melvin said he was not worried about his set-up man, who is now up to 4-2/3 innings in September. Really, the entire Oakland bullpen has been taxed in the season’s final month; A’s starters — including Daniel Mengden and Chris Bassitt who were first out of the bullpen when the A’s used the opener — have worked 32-1/3 innings this month, leaving 39-2/3 for the relief corps.
Melvin said his bullpen is deeper than most, adding that he expects his rotation to recover:
“There’s plenty of depth to go around. We were getting deeper contributions from the starters there for a while, right now not so much, we’re having to cover a lot of the game. … My feeling is, they’ll respond and they’ll start going deeper in games.”
As for Cahill’s Sunday start, Melvin thought the right-hander’s stuff was good he was just unable to iron out a consistent arm slot. Cahill said he was fighting his arm slot all game:
“I was just wild. I was trying to find an arm slot where I could throw it over the plate. When you get in a situation like that you’re kinda in survival mode.”
Survival mode got him two outs into the third, but six walks — a season high, one shy of a career high — were his undoing. The two scheduled starters, Cahill and Jurado (L, 2-5, 7.03 ERA), combined to record just 10 outs, yielding six hits, eight walks and eight runs.
When Texas manager Jeff Banister sent Jurado to the mound it wasn’t with a high demand, following three scoreless innings of opener work from Springs (ND, 0-0, 1.99 ERA).
When the right-hander — who had allowed 10 hits in 5-1/3 innings in his lone previous start against the A’s — entered the fray, the collective eyes of the Oakland offense lit up. Both outs Jurado recorded came on well-struck grounders, though both came before a run had scored. But six straight A’s reached following the second out, a chopper to third from Marcus Semien, including RBI singles by Franklin Barreto and Nick Martini.
Ramón Laureano capped Oakland’s monster rally booming a double deep to right-center that caromed off the “3” in “388” at the top of the 15-foot wall inches to the right of the wall’s end.
The A’s added on with with single runs in the fifth and seventh, the latter coming in the form of a solo home run by Stephen Piscotty, giving the Pleasanton native a career-high 23 on the season. Piscotty said he hadn’t set a goal entering the season, but admitted that reaching the 20 threshold for a second time was big.
Piscotty, batting third with Jed Lowrie getting the day off, added that it was big for the offense to score on a day that it was without the All-Star second baseman:
“It hasn’t been just one guy, we’re picking each other up. … It’s almost like when that happens everyone else knows to kick it in gear. That’s a special thing, it’s rare, and we’ve got it going right now.”
Melvin called it “pretty cool” seeing offensive contributions from youngsters like Barreto, Martini and Laureano. For Cahill, going into games knowing the offense will be there to bail you out as a starter is something to which he and his staff-mates have grown accustomed:
“You get spoiled expecting it every night, but they seem to come through and they did again today.”
Mike Fiers (11-6, 3.36 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday when the A’s begin a six-game road trip; Oakland has won all six of Fiers’ starts in the green and gold. Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.97 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Orioles (41-102) but has been bothered by a blister on his throwing hand.
Outfielder Nick Martini and relief pitcher Ryan Dull were both recalled prior to Sunday’s game pushing the A’s active roster to 36 players. Martini started in left field, batting ninth and going 1-for-1 with a single, RBI, run scored hit-by-pitch before he was removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. Manager Bob Melvin said:
“Nice to get him back involved again today because he’s been a big part of what’s been going on here.”
Frankie Montas is expected to be recalled Monday and be available for the series in Baltimore. … Oakland has not been as many as 30 games over .500 since the end of the 2013 season (96-66). … The A’s improved to 63-0 in games when they are leading through seven innings, they are the only team yet to lose in game in such situations. With a Mariners win over the Yankees in Seattle Sunday, the A’s moved to within 2-1/2 games of the top Wild Card spot.