OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—The Texas Rangers teased Kenny Rogers in the dugout that his fastball had topped out at 92 mph on the Oakland radar gun—though they planned to check their own equipment to confirm it.
Yet his velocity hardly mattered. His command of the strike zone was that dominant.
Rogers pitched eight shutout innings to improve to 21-4 in 41 career starts in Oakland, and David Dellucci homered and scored twice in Texas’ 3-2 victory over the Athletics on Monday night.
The 40-year-old Rogers (2-2) retired his first 14 batters, and finished with five strikeouts. He lost at the Oakland Coliseum last Sept. 16 to end a stretch of 18 straight winning decisions in the stadium dating to a loss Aug. 7, 1994. Still, he’s 19-1 in this ballpark since that ’94 game.
“One of the reasons Kenny has been successful for a long period of time is because he’s unpredictable,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We knew runs were going to be at a premium.”
After another brilliant outing against his former team, Rogers plopped down on a clubhouse couch to ice his arm and socialize with teammates. He isn’t talking to the media this season.
But Mark Ellis followed with a double to left moments later to break up Rogers’ perfect start in the Rangers’ first trip to Oakland since reliever Frank Francisco threw a chair into the stands in an ugly melee with fans last September that ended with a woman’s nose being broken.
Ellis, who came in batting .375 against Rogers, also added a seventh-inning double as the A’s wasted scoring chances yet again.
Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his AL-leading ninth save in 11 opportunities. The A’s loaded the bases against Cordero with two outs, and Marco Scutaro hit a two-run single to right. Cordero then struck out Mark Kotsay looking on a 3-2 slider to end it.
“There’s no excuse for taking a 3-2 slider down the middle for the final out,” Kotsay said. “I had my pitches to hit. I just didn’t execute.”
Laynce Nix added a ninth-inning RBI single for an unearned run after Ellis’ fielding error.
The Rangers responded with a strong performance after losing the last two in a three-game set with the Red Sox over the weekend.
Dellucci connected for his fifth homer of the season with a solo shot to right in the third off Rich Harden (2-1), who pitched his first career complete game.
“I’ve been very relaxed at the plate and I’ve been relaxed in the field,” Dellucci said. “I’m having fun and feel like I’m playing Little League.”
Harden, who reached 97 mph a few times on the speed gun, allowed an unearned run in the first when Hank Blalock’s flyball to right was misplayed by Bobby Kielty, who replaced rookie Nick Swisher after Swisher was placed on the disabled list earlier in the day with a shoulder injury.
The A’s had runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth, but Rogers quickly retired the next three to end the threat. He escaped another jam with runners on first and second in the eighth.
Harden was nearly as good.
“Being able to go nine, getting through that last inning, is definitely something I want to do more often,” he said.
The teams split their first two meetings two weeks ago in Arlington in what has developed into a tense rivalry.
The Rangers were satisfied the A’s had taken measures to protect the bullpen area this series.
Doug Brocail is the only member of the Rangers involved in the incident currently with the team. Francisco underwent season-ending ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow Friday.
“They’re doing their job,” Showalter said of the increased security around the Rangers’ relievers. Brocail declined to comment before the game, except to say he wasn’t worried about another incident.
The two Dallas-area papers placed their beat writers in the stands just behind the bullpen to observe the mood early in the game. It didn’t appear too hostile, but most of the seats were empty. The game drew only 10,144. David Rinetti, A’s vice president of stadium operations, appeared to have more of a presence, standing in front of the Rangers dugout between innings. … When A’s catcher Jason Kendall threw out Chad Allen at second trying to steal in the fifth, it snapped a stretch of 17 straight stolen bases against Kendall. … Oakland’s Eric Byrnes is 2-for-26 with no extra-base hits and no RBIs in his last 10 games. … Ellis committed his first error in 36 games. … Texas’ Gary Matthews Jr. snapped an 0-for-17 slump with an eighth-inning double.