ARLINGTON, Texas -- The September finish line seemingly can’t come soon enough for the last-place Texas Rangers.
They’re having trouble scoring runs and on Friday they ran a struggling journeyman pitcher to the mound to face the A’s in Jerome Williams.
Cakewalk for Oakland, right?
Feel free to cue the “That’s Why They Play The Game” cliché.
The A’s turned in a clunker of a performance in a 4-1 defeat that opened a three-game series at Globe Life Park.
They made Williams (2-4) right at home on the mound in his first start for the Rangers after beign called up from Triple-A, where he had a 6.10 ERA over two starts.
A’s right-hander Jason Hammel couldn’t make enough key pitches when he needed to. And even during the A’s lone scoring rally of the night, they sabotaged their efforts with a base-running mistake.
The temperature at first pitch was a roasting 98 degrees, and the A’s played like a team that couldn’t wait to get in and enjoy the air conditioning.
Starting pitching report
Surely it was an improvement over Jason Hammel’s last start, when he completed just two innings against Baltimore. But Hammel dropped to 0-3 in three starts for Oakland and has yet to pitch as deep as six innings in any of those outings.
Hammel worked 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) and seven hits. He walked two and struck out three. There just haven’t been many clean innings for Hammel since he’s arrived in Oakland via trade from the Chicago Cubs. In 12 2/3 total innings, he’s enjoyed just one three-up, three-down frame, and that came in the bottom of the fifth Friday.
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The Rangers took the lead in the second when Jim Adduci led off with a double and scored on J.P. Arencibia’s single to left. Hammel had to be kicking himself in the third when he allowed a second run despite getting two strikeouts to start the inning. Elvis Andrus tripled over Yoenis Cespedes’ head in center and Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring single through the hole and into left.
With the A’s trailing 2-1, Texas built on its lead in the sixth with two more runs off Hammel, on the strength of two hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly, though Cespedes’ throwing error to home advanced Rios into scoring position for the second run.
Eric O’Flaherty and Ryan Cook did solid work to keep the game within reach after Hammel exited.
At the plate
Too many bad swings against Williams, who went six innings and allowed just one run on five hits. He struck out four and the A’s, who lead the majors in walks, didn’t work him for a single free pass.
Oakland got its only run in the sixth, when Cespedes singled home Eric Sogard with one out to make it 2-1. But on the same play, John Jaso tried advancing first to third and was easily thrown out by Adduci, the left fielder.
The A’s put two runners on with one out in the ninth against Neftali Feliz, newly installed as Texas’ closer. But Stephen Vogt flied out and Derek Norris grounded into a wacky 3-4-1 putout to end it.
In the field
Cespedes throwing error was the only one of the game and it helped set up a Rangers run.
Last time Sonny Gray (11-3, 2.73) took the mound at Globe Life Park, he outdueled Yu Darvish and threw his first career shutout. On Saturday, he’ll oppose Nick Tepesch, who was pushed back a day after he was used in relief in Texas’ 14-inning loss to the Yankees on Tuesday. First pitch is 5:05 p.m. with A's Pregame Live at 4:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.