Athletics 7, Rangers 6
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—With first place in the AL West on the line, the Oakland Athletics saw their starting pitcher get knocked out in the third inning. Then their first reliever was KO’d by back spasms after the fourth.
Yet the way Oakland’s bullpen has been pitching lately, it wasn’t a problem.
A series of Athletics relievers turned an early slugfest into a tight game, then late clutch hitting by Adam Melhuse and Erubiel Durazo gave Oakland a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
“Our bullpen has been light’s out lately,” Oakland starter Kirk Saarloos said. “The thing about them is they got a different array of pitches. They’re a bunch of guys with different expertise. Tonight they were outstanding.”
Justin Duchscherer went 1 2-3 innings, then left when his back tightened up. Chris Hammond, Jim Mecir and Chad Bradford (5-4) combined to hold Texas until the offense regained the lead on Melhuse’s RBI single in the eighth and got a sacrifice fly by Durazo in the ninth.
What seemed like an insurance run proved to the difference as closer Octavio Dotel allowed an RBI double to Eric Young with two out in the ninth. Dotel struck out David Dellucci looking to cap his seventh save in nine chances since being acquired from Houston.
Although Dotel gave up the first run the bullpen has allowed in 20 innings over five games, the fact he preserved the win was huge for a team that’s had a lot of heartbreaking losses on the road, many by one-run and many coughed up in the ninth inning.
“The bullpen really came through,” said Oakland’s Mark McLemore, who drove in three runs and hit his first homer since May 23, 2003. “Everyone who came in did what they wanted to do.”
It was a great way for the A’s to open a four-game series against the team that’s led the division for nearly all the last month. Just last Friday, Texas beat Oakland to go up by 4 1/2 games, the most for any AL West team all season.
The Athletics, who have made a habit of second-half surges in recent years, have reclaimed first place by winning six straight while the Rangers have lost three straight and five of six. Oakland also improved to 7-3 against Texas this season.
“It’s still July, as far as I’m concerned, and there’s no need to be discouraged,” Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. “We’ve gone through some rough stretches this year and we’ve bounced back from every one of these and gotten better. This won’t be any different.”
The A’s went ahead in the eighth when Durazo doubled off Carlos Almanzar (7-2), then, after a 32-minute rain delay, scored on Melhuse’s bloop single into short center field.
Durazo made it 7-5 with a sacrifice fly in the ninth, scoring Eric Chavez, who doubled.
This pivotal game started out as a slugfest with both teams hitting back-to-back homers in the first inning. Texas came out of it leading 3-2, then was up 5-3 after the second inning. The A’s tied it in the top of the fourth.
Neither starting pitcher lasted very long, a bad sign for both teams—and their bullpens—as they open the four-game set.
McLemore hit a solo homer on the 12th pitch from Texas starter R.A. Dickey and Chavez put the next one in nearly the same spot.
Dickey gave the lead back in the top of the second. Durazo singled, moved to third on an infield smash by Crosby that clanked off third baseman Hank Blalock and scored on a double-play groundout by Eric Byrnes.
The Rangers regained the lead with two out in the bottom of the second as Blalock ended an 0-for-17 slump with an RBI double and Soriano followed with an RBI single.
Oakland tied it in the fourth when Dickey loaded the bases on a single and two walks, then gave up a two-run single to McLemore.
Dickey allowed five runs on seven hits and three walks over 3 2-3 innings. He’s 0-6 over his last 10 starts and his ERA in that span is 8.44. He was at 3.48 before the slide.
Saarloos gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks over 2 1-3 innings.
This is Oakland’s second-best winning streak of the season. The Athletics won eight in a row June 5-13. … The A’s had consecutive homers for the fourth time this season. It was the seventh time for Texas. … Teixeira became the fourth-youngest switch hitter to reach 50 career homers. The only players to get there before his 24 years, 109 days are Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray and Ruben Sierra..