Rangers 10, Athletics 3
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—For a club that hasn’t tasted much meaningful September baseball in five years, the Texas Rangers are showing a big appetite for the playoff chase.
Hank Blalock homered and drove in his 100th run with a two-run double, and Alfonso Soriano also homered and drove in two runs for the Rangers, who have won two of three in their key four-game series against the struggling division leaders.
With extra security officers seated near the Texas bullpen after Monday’s chair-throwing brouhaha, the Rangers won for the fifth time in six games. Not even reliever Frank Francisco’s arrest and legal problems have derailed Texas’ last-ditch push for the postseason.
“This club is doing some impressive things,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’ve got 17 games left, and we’ll continue to play in a way so we can make every next game mean more.”
The Rangers’ playoff hopes seemed dead last week, but they moved within four games of the A’s, who remained two games ahead of second-place Anaheim after Seattle’s 1-0 victory over the Angels. Texas hasn’t made the postseason since 1999.
Teixeira’s 36th homer in the sixth inning was the decisive blow against Mulder, who failed in his fourth attempt to get his 18th win.
“Now’s not the time to feel sorry for yourself,” Mulder said. “We just have to keep going out there.”
Francisco did the same, hours after making his initial court appearance on a charge of felony aggravated assault. He was booed loudly by the Coliseum crowd when he walked alone to the bullpen midway through the seventh inning.
A few moments later, several policemen descended into the stands above the bullpen to speak to someone in the crowd. The Texas relievers all stood and watched, but no fans were seen escorted out.
Francisco was booed again when he warmed up while the Rangers batted in the ninth. Showalter never intended to put Francisco in the game.
“He had to get some work,” the manager said. “He hadn’t thrown in a couple of days. All things considered, I think he’s handled himself well. He understands there’s some things he’s going to have to go through, and tonight was one of those things.”
Francisco politely declined comment after the game.
The Oakland fans had better control than Mulder (17-5), who allowed 11 hits and a season-high eight runs to waste an early lead.
After pitching splendidly through early August, Mulder has regressed in recent weeks. His walk totals and pitch counts are way up, and he’s winless in a season-worst four starts, probably scuttling his chances for his first Cy Young Award.
“I left several pitches over the plate,” Mulder said. “However, it was the best I’ve felt in a month or so.”
He never retired the side in order against Texas, walking two and even making an error on Kevin Mench’s squib to the mound in the sixth. He was pulled after yielding three straight hits to lead off the seventh, including Blalock’s double into the left-field corner.
“The first five innings, we had the Mulder back that we saw in the first half of the season,” manager Ken Macha said. “He’s told us all along he’s fine.”
Their ace’s struggles are just one of the A’s problems. Oakland was the AL’s dominant team in Septembers past, but the A’s have lost seven of 10 to endanger their fifth straight trip to the postseason.
Ryan Drese (13-8), an Oakland native and Cal graduate pitching in front of family and friends, allowed nine hits and three walks over six innings.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Drese said. “I’ve got a lot of family and friends in the stands, but that’s secondary. The biggest thing is that we got a win.”
The Rangers’ potent lineup gave Drese a big cushion, scoring three runs apiece in the sixth and seventh innings. Blalock added his career-best 30th homer in the ninth.
Texas has scored 28 runs in three games in Oakland—and it doesn’t get any better for the A’s, who must face Kenny Rogers in the series finale Thursday. The former Oakland pitcher has won 18 straight decisions at the Coliseum.
After Oakland stranded five runners in the first two innings, Erubiel Durazo gave the A’s a 2-1 lead with a two-run single.
But Soriano tied it in the fourth, blasting his 28th homer into the concrete high above the fence in center. Soriano, who’s batting over .400 against Mulder, hit two homers in Texas’ loss Monday night, then had three hits Tuesday night.
Texas LHP Brian Shouse struck out the side in the seventh. … Billy McMillon started in left field, and Nick Swisher moved from left to right to give Eric Byrnes a day off. Macha believes Byrnes has fallen into a 2-for-16 slump because he’s pressing to get his 20th homer.