Tony Gwynn: Wild AL West up for grabs
It’s only August, but the Rangers felt they were teetering on the edge of yet another lost season after dropping the series opener Monday and then blowing a four-run lead in a 7-6 loss Tuesday night.
In the final series of a 10-game trip, they needed a momentum-turning win— and with 17 hits and seven dominant innings from Vicente Padilla, the Rangers earned the biggest shutout victory in Coliseum history. They also avoided a three-game sweep that would have left them 7 1/2 games behind the first-place A’s in the AL West.
“At 7 1/2 back, I don’t want to say you’re done, but we’d have a lot of work to do, and we’ve got to have other teams do some dirty work for us,” DeRosa said. “At 5 1/2 back with 40-something games left, we’ve still got a good chance.”
Carlos Lee scored four runs and went 4-for-5 with his first homer for Texas, while Rod Barajas and Gary Matthews Jr. also hit solo homers to stop the A’s six-game winning streak and the Rangers’ four-game losing skid.
“I think our guys were pretty focused on this game,” Texas manager Buck Showalter said. “We wanted to finish this road trip strong and get home. … We were real close to having a great road trip, but we are where we are, and we still have a lot of contact with where we want to get.”
DeRosa, the light-hitting infielder with just 25 homers before this season, went 4-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs in his first career multihomer game. He has been a veritable slugger recently, with three homers in his last two games— and his first career grand slam last Friday in Los Angeles.
“It’s nice to be able to explode like that,” DeRosa said of the Rangers’ revival.
One night earlier, DeRosa struck out in the ninth inning—and his swing hit A’s catcher Jason Kendall in the elbow, forcing umpire Jim Joyce to make a game-ending interference call.
But DeRosa connected in the fifth against Zito (12-8), who gave up four homers and 11 hits. DeRosa then added another three-run drive off Brad Halsey in Texas’ seven-run sixth inning—and this one glanced off a banner advertising the Oakland Raiders’ upcoming season high above the left-field fence.
“It’s a sign from the heavens that I must select LaMont Jordan first in my fantasy draft,” DeRosa said with a grin, referring to the Raiders’ running back.
Bobby Kielty had three hits for the A’s, who made three errors and failed to get a runner to third base while losing for just the second time in 11 games overall. It was their biggest margin of defeat this season, surpassing a 15-2 loss to the Yankees on opening day—and their biggest home shutout loss in Oakland, surpassing a 13-0 blanking by Seattle on July 2, 2003.
“I’d like to be able to wash that one away and go get them, and hopefully that will happen,” manager Ken Macha said. “We haven’t had a game like that in quite some time.”
Padilla (12-7) cruised for the Rangers, allowing six hits—all singles— and getting an embarrassment of run support to win for the sixth time in eight starts.
Zito, who had won four of his previous five starts, never retired the side in order and managed just two strikeouts. Though he was 10-4 since mid-May, he has allowed 18 runs in his last four starts.
“I was leaving balls over the middle,” Zito said. “I just couldn’t get the ball down, and I wasn’t finishing the changeup.”
Texas already led 2-0 before sending 19 batters to the plate and scoring 11 runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Matthews and Mark Teixeira joined DeRosa with two hits apiece in those innings, culminating in Jerry Hairston’s two-run double.
While the Rangers relaxed, the A’s got frustrated: Outfielder Milton Bradley was ejected for the first time in more than two years, a departure that followed a sixth-inning popout.
Lee hit the Rangers’ first homer, connecting on a solo shot in the first inning. He hit 28 homers for Milwaukee this season, but hadn’t connected since joining the Rangers in a trade on July 28.
Halsey, who was optioned back to Triple-A Sacramento after the game, allowed three hits, six runs and two walks while getting just one out. … After Matthews scored on Jay Payton’s throwing error to put Texas ahead 8-0, Showalter charged out of the dugout to talk to the umpires, apparently arguing that Lee should have been allowed to score as well. … DeRosa was just 1-for-13 in his career against Zito before this game. … RHP Jay Witasick gave up Hairston’s two-run double in his first game back from the disabled list after sitting out the previous seven weeks with tendinitis in his left ankle.