Rapid Reaction: A's 3, Rangers 1
OAKLAND, Calif. -- The AL West is now officially up for grabs with one game left in the 2012 season. Oakland's 3-1 win over the Rangers pulled the A's into a tie with Texas with game No. 162 on tap for Wednesday afternoon. It's the first time since April 9 that the Rangers haven't had sole possession of first place in the AL West.
The Ranger bats have disappeared recently and the club has lost six of its last eight and eight of its last 12. That slump, combined with Oakland's five-game winning streak and victories in eight of their last 10, has pulled the A's even after the Rangers had a four-game lead after last Thursday's win over Oakland. Some quick thoughts on this game (more to come from the clubhouse):
What it means: The Rangers and A's will face each other Wednesday with the winner claiming the AL West crown and the loser playing in the AL wild-card game Friday. ... The loss also means that the Rangers need a combination of things to happen to claim the No. 1 seed. But to simplify it, if the Rangers win and the Yankees win or Baltimore loses, Texas will face the Tigers in the ALDS. If they lose, they'll face either the Orioles or the Yankees depending on what happens Wednesday. That game could be played in Arlington if Baltimore loses tomorrow. Stay tuned on the blog for more explaining all of this.
Double plays hurt: Once again, the Rangers couldn't produce enough runs to get a win. They managed just one -- on a Josh Hamilton double in the third. They had a few chances to create something, but double plays hurt. Elvis Andrus walked to lead off the sixth, but Hamilton hit into a double play to erase him. Michael Young's infield hit in the sixth didn't matter as Mike Napoli hit into a double play. In the fourth, Nelson Cruz got on thanks to an error and didn't get to second as Young hit into a twin-killing.
Early chance squandered: Adrian Beltre hit the first pitch he saw in the second for a double off the wall in left-center. But he never scored. Cruz grounded out and Beltre couldn't move over. Young got some good fortune when a high chop went off starter Travis Blackley's glove for an infield hit. But then they had some bad luck when Napoli's line drive -- and it was hit hard -- went right into the glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who reacted quickly. Geovany Soto then struck out looking on a great curveball.
Costly Cruz error: Cruz charged a single by Derek Norris with runners at second and third and no outs in the fifth, but bobbled the ball as he tried to get a handle on it to make a throw. That allowed Brandon Moss to score easily. With Cruz's arm, it's possible he might have had a play at the plate had he come up with it cleanly. And it's also possible that Moss scores anyway. But the bobble meant he had no chance to get him. That second run was the go-ahead run in the game.
Hamilton drives one in: With two outs and Ian Kinsler at first base, Hamilton was nowhere near two off-speed pitches and fell behind 0-2. But on a third breaking pitch (curve) that Blackley hung, Hamilton timed it right and hit it to the wall in right-center for a double. Kinsler kept running and when second baseman Adam Rosales dropped the relay throw, allowing Kinsler to score without a play at the plate. Had he not dropped it, it probably would have been close. But credit the Rangers for getting aggressive and forcing the A's to make a play, which they didn't.
Kinsler struggling: Coming into the game, Kinsler had one hit in his last 18 at-bats. And he didn't get a hit Tuesday. He is batting .199 (27-136) in his last 32 games. ... Kinsler is a different hitter on the road than at home -- with 70 points separating the two numbers coming in. He was hitting just .223 on the road before Tuesday and couldn't get a hit. ... Kinsler's last hit with a runner in scoring position was Aug. 31. He is 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position since Aug. 15.
Harrison's night: Matt Harrison came out with a quality start, but was unable to hold a 1-0 lead. He gave up three straight hits to start the fifth and two runs, which gave the A's the lead. ... With two outs and no one on (and after Harrison got Yoenis Cespedes on a pickoff/caught stealing), Jonny Gomes tagged a solo shot to give the A's an insurance run. ... Harrison finished with three runs on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts, but got the loss.
Blackley better: Blackley gave up five runs in the first inning in a loss to Texas last week and lasted just that lone inning. But on Tuesday, he was impressive, going six innings and giving up just the one run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Tidbits: The Rangers' bullpen did what it could to keep it close. Alexi Ogando pitched a scoreless seventh, Michael Kirkman got both left-handed batters he faced in the eighth and Roy Oswalt struck out Cespedes to end the eighth. ... The A's announced 30,660 as the attendance with a 12,000 walkup.
Up next: RHP Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.18 ERA in NL/AL) pitches for the Rangers against RHP A.J. Griffin (7-1, 2.71 ERA) of the A's at 2:37 p.m. CT in the final regular-season game of 2012.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.