Texas Rangers: Brandon Hicks
OAKLAND, Calif. — Say this for Ron Washington. He doesn’t second-guess himself.
Plenty of questions awaited the Texas Rangers’ manager when he trudged back to his office following Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Oakland A’s. Questions about pitching changes and bunts, decisions that all backfired.
Washington didn’t hesitate to answer any of them. He said exactly what he was thinking and why he believed his decisions were right, even though they didn’t work.
“We had the right people in,” Washington said. “We just didn’t get the job done.”
“With the hitters coming up behind (Hicks), we thought we’d get an opportunity to turn the lineup around,” Washington said. “We never got there.”
The three hitters following Hicks included two switch-hitters (Coco Crisp and Jemile Weeks) and a lefty (Josh Reddick). Washington said he wanted all three to face a lefty. (Crisp has hit worse against lefties this year, but Weeks is actually better against lefties.)
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Kirkman miscalculated on his 1-1 pitch to Hicks.
He thought Hicks was looking for a fastball, so he threw a changeup, which he left up, and Hicks belted it over the fence in right-center for his first career homer.
It was the second time Washington’s pitching logic failed to produce the desired result. In the seventh, he had left-hander Robbie Ross stay out for a second inning, even though Alexi Ogando was warm in the pen and a right-handed hitter, Brandon Inge, was due to hit first.
Inge was hitting .184 against lefties this season. And there were three consecutive switch-hitters after him, although the A’s had two dangerous right-handed pinch-hitters on the bench in Chris Carter and Jonny Gomes.
It all blew up, because Inge doubled against Ross. Washington then brought in Ogando, who proceeded to walk Carter. He retired the next two batters, but then Reddick blasted a double off the fence, tying the game. It was the first time the Rangers had blown a save since May 17, when Reddick got to Ogando for a homer in Texas.
“As you start to get to know him, you know next time to make a better pitch,”
Ogando said through an interpreter.
Ogando, pitching the second time since coming off the disabled list, was more disappointed with the walk. He had walked the first batter he faced Tuesday.
“I feel a little uncomfortable trying to locate,” Ogando said, “but I feel like I’m coming around.”
Washington made one other decision that didn’t work. After Nelson Cruz led off the top of the ninth with a double, Washington had called for Mike Napoli to bunt. Once Washington saw how aggressively the A’s were defending against the bunt, he took it off. Napoli struck out, and Cruz never moved from second.
“When I realized they knew he was going to bunt, I thought they’d throw him something he could get on, and I took it off,” Washington said. “It didn’t work.”
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Brandon Hicks hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Oakland A’s to a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday afternoon at the Coliseum.
What it means: The Rangers, who blew a 3-1 lead in the seventh, missed a chance to sweep the two-game series. They’ll have an off day before they begin a big three-game series against the second-place Angels in Los Angeles. The Rangers are five games up, pending the Angels game Thursday night in Detroit.
Kirkman loses: Michael Kirkman entered in the eighth and pitched a scoreless inning, but he didn’t get an out in the ninth. He gave up a homer to Hicks, who had just entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh. It was the first career homer for Hicks.
Lewis’ day: Colby Lewis had a very good outing in his first game back after spending three weeks on the disabled list because of tendinitis in his right forearm. Lewis gave up just one run in five innings, on Brandon Inge’s fifth-inning solo homer. Lewis was pulled after just 75 pitches. Lewis left the bases loaded in the fourth and had to face No. 3 hitter Josh Reddick with the potential go-ahead run at third in the fifth. Lewis struck him out.
Bullpen blows it: The Rangers had not blown a save since May 17, but that streak ended in familiar fashion. Reddick’s two-out, two-run double against Alexi Ogando in the seventh inning tied the game, 3-3. Reddick homered against Ogando for the Rangers’ last blown save.
Another streak also ended on Reddick’s hit. Inge, who had doubled off Robbie Ross to start the inning, scored, ending Ross’ scoreless streak at 24 innings.
Young clutch: Michael Young ran his hitting streak to six games with a big hit in the sixth inning. Young’s one-out single drove in Elvis Andrus with the tie-breaking run, chasing Travis Blackley out of the game.
Gentry stays hot: Craig Gentry continues to be one of the Rangers' best hitters, despite being tucked at the bottom of the order. With two outs and Brandon Snyder at first, Gentry yanked a double into the left-field corner, driving in Snyder with the first run of the game. Gentry is hitting .383 over his last 31 games.
Golden at third: Adrian Beltre, a three-time Gold Glove winner, made a few very nice plays. In the sixth inning, with Yoenis Cespedes at first and nobody out, Seth Smith hit a blooper into shallow center. The ball dropped between Ian Kinsler and Andrus, but Beltre hustled to second to cover the base, and he took a throw from Andrus to force Cespedes. An out later, he made a diving stop of a Derek Norris grounder to record the final out of the inning. In the seventh, the A’s had runners at first and second with no outs, Beltre charged in and made a sliding catch of Coco Crisp’s bunt. In the eighth, though, Beltre made a bad throw that allowed Norris to reach. It was Beltre’s first error since June 2.
Up Next: The Rangers have an off day before beginning a three-game series against the Angels in Los Angeles on Friday. The series opens with LHP Derek Holland (6-4, 4.57) facing RHP Jered Weaver (11-1, 2.26) at 9:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.
The Rangers have made a habit of engineering big innings en route to wins this month. They have had at least a four-run inning in five straight games.
Their latest offensive explosion began with the Rangers trailing 2-1. Nelson Cruz reached first base on an error, the first of two that would put runners on base in the fifth inning. Mike Napoli then hit a single and Yorvit Torrealba reached first on a fielder's choice.
In one of the key plays of the inning, Cruz was caught in a rundown between third and home during Torrealba's fielder's choice. But Cruz made sure to make his rundown last long enough to move Napoli to third and Torrealba to second.
Craig Gentry would have been the one to bring the two runners home, were it not for an impressive leaping grab by Brandon Hicks of Oakland. That brought Ian Kinsler to the plate with two outs.
Kinsler had struck out in his two previous at bats but came through in the fifth with a two-RBI single to put the Rangers up and extend the inning.
"We expect to score and we expect to put pressure on a team consistently throughout the game," Kinsler said. "Getting a two-out RBI and putting us up in that game was big."
Kinsler said that his previous struggles at the plate had no bearing on his performance in the fifth.
"You don’t carry one at bat into the next at bat," He said. "I wasn’t up there thinking I need to get this done because I struck out twice. I was thinking I need to get this done because we’re down by one."
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he was pleased that Kinsler could come up with a hit in that situation.
"Two-out base hits are tough to come by, but we're getting them right now and we're not going to complain about it," Washington said.
Kinsler was moved over to second when Elvis Andrus reached base on an error in the next at bat. That set up Josh Hamilton for a three-run bomb, his 25th of the season and fourth of the month, to put the Rangers up, 6-2.
"We've always had at least one big inning, that's kind of been our deal," Hamilton said. "We got key hits with guys in scoring position. We've had guys in scoring postiion all year, but we've had trouble getting them in."
Hamilton became the faster player in Rangers history to reach 25 homers in a season (79 games) and is just fifth player in club history to have 25 home runs in four or more seasons. He joins Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira in that category.
"I'm excited about it,"It's one of those things. I haven't tried to hit home runs. The biggest thing is to try to hit the ball hard, not far. It works."
The inning ended in the next at bat, but at that point the Rangers had already built a lead that the A's could not catch. The five-run fifth also assured that Martin Perez would get credit for the win in his first career major league start. Washington said that the Rangers resourcefulness was key for their success.
"Tonight, they made a couple of errors and we made them pay for it," Washington said. "We're trying to continue to play good baseball and we are. It takes everybody to continue it. We're playing hard, making things happen and take advantage of it."
Perhaps Kinsler put it best when he sat down in front of his locker and was greeted by a throng of reporters.
"We're just good man," He said. "We're really good at baseball."
What it means: The Rangers took the series with the A's, winning the first three in the four-game series with a chance to sweep Sunday. The Rangers improved their lead to 6.5-game over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, tying their biggest edge of the season. Texas also retains the best record in the majors, at 50-29, and is the first team to reach 50 wins this season.
Perez's first start: Perez looked good in his debut as a major league starter. He threw 103 pitches in 5 1/3 innings and showed good command of his breaking ball. He allowed six hits, including a home run, two earned runs, and one walk. He struck out five.
Riding the stream: The Jet Stream was in full effect Saturday night. Each team hit a solo shot to right field in the second inning. Chris Carter struck first for the A's and then Adrian Beltre followed for the Rangers. Nelson Cruz also gave a ball a ride to right field in the second, but it fell short just before the wall for a fly out.
Five in the fifth: The Rangers engineered another one-inning offensive explosion to go ahead against the A's in the fifth. Down 2-1, the Rangers put two men on base to start the inning. Yorvit Torrealba reached on a fielder's choice when Cruz was caught in a rundown between third and home. But Cruz made sure to make the rundown last long enough to get Mike Napoli to third and Torrealba to second. With runners in scoring position, Brandon Hicks made an impressive leaping grab to keep red-hot Craig Gentry from tying in the runners. It looked like the Rangers might leave the runners on base when Ian Kinsler stepped up to the plate with two outs. Kinsler, who had back-to-back strikeouts to start the game, came through with a two-RBI single. After Elvis Andrus reached base on an error, Josh Hamilton blasted a three-run homer to center field. Hamilton's fourth home run of the month capped off a five-run fifth that put the Rangers up 6-2.
Home run Hamilton: Hamilton's home run in the fifth inning was his 25th homer of the season, which matches his total from last season. He is the fastest player in Rangers history to reach 25 home runs in a season, hitting the mark in 79 games. He is just the fifth player in club history to hit 25 home runs in four or more seasons, joining the likes of Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira. Hamilton finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs.
Error message: The Rangers took full advantage of three key errors made by the A's, two of which came during the fifth-inning run. Both Andrus and Cruz reached base on errors which sustained the inning and gave the Rangers the chance to score as many runs as they did. Michael Young also reached second base on an error in the sixth inning, although he was not driven home.
Napoli's strikeout streak: Napoli struck out swinging in the sixth inning to extend his streak to 11 games with at least one strikeout. He had struck out 25 times in his previous 10 games, including three strikeouts against the A's on Friday night, two of which ended innings with runners in scoring position. Napoli finished 1-for-4.
Eighth-inning scare: With Michael Kirkman on the mound, the A's put two men on base with an error and a walk to lead off the eighth inning. Kirkman escaped with no runs thanks to two flyouts to center and a pop-up to second base. Kirkman and Yoshinori Tateyama saved the bullpen after Perez's exit, combining for the remaining 3 2/3 innings and allowing no runs.
Up next: The Rangers have a chance to complete the sweep when they close out their four-game home series with the A's on Sunday. RHP Yu Darvish will take the mound against LHP Travis Blackley at 6:05 p.m. on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW. Some 2,500 reserved seats remain for Sunday's game.
Tue. at CWS: RHP Roy Oswalt (2-0, 4.26) vs. LHP Chris Sale (9-2, 2.27), 7:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.
Wed. at CWS: RHP Scott Feldman (2-6, 6.13) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.50), 6:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW/ESPN.
Thu. at CWS: LHP Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16) vs. LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 2.19), 1:10 p.m., ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540 AM/FSSW.
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.