OAKLAND – Another ninth inning took a sour turn for the A’s on Tuesday, and they walked off the field with a 5-4 loss to the Texas Rangers that was a bitter one to digest.
The Rangers were down to their last strike before scoring twice off A’s reliever Luke Gregerson in the top of the ninth to erase a 4-3 deficit. Gregerson appeared to make a game-clinching play when he sprung off the mound to field Leonys Martin’s squeeze bunt and flip to catcher Derek Norris to retire Mitch Moreland at the plate. That was the second out, with Martin left at first base.
But he stole second, and with the count 2-2 on Josh Wilson, Wilson drove a game-tying double off the left field wall to score Martin. Then former A’s prospect Michael Choice, traded from Oakland to Texas in the offseason as part of the Craig Gentry deal, knocked a single up the middle to bring home the go-ahead run and put Texas ahead 5-4.
The A’s went down in order in the ninth against Joakim Soria and have lost the first two of this three-game series to the Rangers.
Oakland’s bullpen has now blown six saves for the season.
Starting pitching report
Tommy Milone wound up giving the A’s a quality start, which was tough to predict given how his night started. The lefty gave up two runs in a 31-pitch first inning that included three walks (one was intentional). He allowed another run in the third but wound up retiring 10 of his final 11 batters. Milone went six innings and allowed three runs on five hits and four walks. The A’s led 4-3 when he exited the game.
One night after Sean Doolittle took the loss in the series opener, Gregerson – the man splitting closer duties with Doolittle for the time being – couldn’t get the job done in the ninth.
At the plate
The A’s jumped on Rangers starter Nick Martinez early, but for the second night in a row, they didn’t exactly maximize their opportunities.
Jed Lowrie doubled with one out in the bottom of the first and came home on Josh Donaldson’s double. Then Yoenis Cespedes doubled to left with two outs to tie the game 2-2. Oakland looked poised to do more damage in the second with the bases loaded and one out. Martinez ran the count to 3-0 on Lowrie, who eventually hit a fly ball to center. The Rangers’ Leonys Martin made the catch and fired a strong throw home to nail John Jaso, who tagged up from third.
The A’s erased a 3-2 deficit and took the lead in the fourth, with an assist from the Rangers. Josh Wilson, who had just shifted from second to third base after Kevin Kouzmanoff left with a back injury, misplayed Josh Reddick’s bouncer for a two-base error that put runners on second and third with one out. Eric Sogard then followed with a sacrifice fly and Coco Crisp lined an RBI double to right to put the A’s up 4-3.
In the field
Martin’s throw to the plate gave a big lift to Texas rookie Martinez, who was making just his second career start. Martinez wobbled early, but buoyed by the assist from Martin, he managed to stick around for five innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. The A’s, who have had some well-documented defensive struggles in the early going, played their second straight errorless game. They got a couple of terrific plays from second baseman Eric Sogard and turned three ground-ball double plays.
A crowd of 15,744 was on hand.
An entertaining pitching matchup awaits in Wednesday’s 12:35 p.m. series finale, as Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.80) opposes lefty Martin Perez (3-0, 1.86).