A's October Quest: Door open after Rangers' comeback falters

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A's October Quest: Door open after Rangers' comeback falters

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers are seeing their lead in the American League West slip away.Justin Smoak homered in the eighth inning and drove in a run in the ninth for Seattle to beat Texas 8-6 on Saturday night.Texas lead in the division slipped to two games over Oakland, which beat Baltimore 5-2. It's as close as anyone has been to the Rangers since April 13 when the Rangers also led the division by two games.The Rangers will play their final 17 games against AL West teams, including six against the Angels and seven against the A's.Texas trailed 6-0 early before tying the game in the sixth inning."We fell behind early, and we fought and got back in it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But we just couldn't stop them."Smoak had three hits, two runs and three RBIs, helping Seattle build a 6-0 lead in the first three innings while sending Texas starter Scott Feldman to the bench after just 2 2-3 innings. Feldman, who had lost his last five starts going into the game, threw 71 pitches.Dustin Ackley homered to lead off the third and Michael Saunders had a two-run triple. Saunders also had a RBI single in the first. Smoak scored Saunders with a single and Eric Thames plated Smoak to make it 6-0."They did hit some good pitches," Feldman said. "There were some pitches I threw where I wanted to and they hit them and others that got a little too much plate.Martin Perez kept the Rangers in the game in relief of Feldman. He retired 13 of the 15 batters he faced, only allowing a walk and hitting a batter. He struck out five and became the first Texas reliever with over 4 1-3 innings pitched to allow no hits and no runs since Mark Brandenburg did the same in 4 2-3 innings against Seattle on July 6, 1996."I thought he was great," Washington said. "The kid came in and kept the ball down in the zone and had a good change up and was aggressive. He threw the ball extremely well."Texas got on the board in the third after Seattle starter Jason Vargas walked the bases loaded. Nelson Cruz's sacrifice fly scored a run for the Rangers to make it 6-1, but Vargas struck out Michael Young to end the inning.In the sixth, catcher Mike Napoli, in his first start after a stint on the 15-day disabled list because of a left quadriceps strain, hit a three-run home run to bring the Rangers within two, 6-4.Napoli made his last rehab start at DH on Friday night for Double A Frisco by going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Going into Saturday's game against the Mariners, Napoli joked that he told his Rangers teammates that he got those out of the way and 'left the strikeouts down there."Cruz had an RBI single in the sixth and David Murphy a run-scoring ground out to tie it."This team never quits," Feldman said. "We kind of take it for granted sometimes what a competitive team we have and what a good team we have. They fought their way back and almost pulled it off in the end."With the game tied 6-6 in the eighth, Tanner Scheppers relieved Perez and Smoak led off the inning with his 15th homer. He then had an RBI single in the ninth that scored John Jaso. Sheppers (1-1) took the loss, and after the game, Washington said he pulled Perez because he, "just felt like (Perez) was finished."Lucas Luetge (2-1) got two outs for the Seattle victory while Tom Wilhelmsen got the final four outs for his 27th save in 30 chances.NOTES: After the game, Texas recalled RHP Justin Grimm and RHP Wilmer Font from Double-A Frisco to give the Rangers 34 active players for Sunday's game. Grimm had a prior stint with Texas from June 16-July 6, while Font is looking for his Major League debut. .Mariners RF Casper Wells was a late scratch and was replaced by Eric Thames in right field. "He took a swing in the cage an his neck locked up pretty good on him," Manager Eric Wedge said about Wells. .Wedge reiterated that the team is going to give RHP Kevin Millwood time to recover from shoulder stiffness, plugging in RHP Erasmo Ramirez and RHP Hector Noesi. "We'll see if (Millwood's) going to pitch again," Wedge said.

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

A's find themselves in decent shape with Graveman, Gray possibly returning

OAKLAND — Some 10-9 records are better than others, and so it is that the A’s can hit the road for a nine-game trip feeling pretty good about themselves.

Their just-completed homestand began with Opening Night starter Kendall Graveman leaving a game early and landing on the disabled list. That was coupled with news that shortstop Marcus Semien would be lost for two months or more with a fractured wrist.

The A’s responded to those developments with a five-game winning streak that was halted by Sunday’s 11-1 rout at the hands of the Seattle Mariners.

The A’s went 5-4 on the homestand, holding their ground after a heavy dose of injury misfortune, and now the outlook changes just a bit. The focus shifts from the players joining the D.L. to those that could soon return to provide a boost.

Graveman, who has a strained right shoulder, is scheduled to throw off the mound Monday. If that goes well, expect him to be activated sometime in the early portion of the upcoming trip. Sonny Gray, who has been out since injuring a side muscle early in Cactus League games, is set to throw Thursday for Triple-A Nashville after an encouraging rehab outing Saturday for Single-A Stockton.

If Gray comes out of Thursday’s start well, look for the 2015 All-Star to join the active roster and pitch sometime against Minnesota in the final series of this road trip. Nothing can be taken for granted until both pitchers actually return healthy, but it’s a promising scenario to possibly add two starters of their caliber as April turns to May.

“I think any time you look up and you’re over .500 and you’ve had a great homestand and you’re missing your best two pitchers, that’s something to be pleased about,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “Getting Kendall back is huge. And Sonny obviously did great last night, and felt great, which is more important than the results.

“We’re excited to get those two guys back but in the meantime, we’re gonna continue to keep playing the way we are because we’re playing really good baseball and we’ll just keep things rolling.”

It was clear early on Sunday that a five-game winning streak wouldn’t reach six. The Mariners led 2-0 in the third when Andrew Triggs missed location on a 1-0 sinker and Taylor Motter launched a grand slam over the wall in left-center.

Triggs, who excelled at missing the fat part of bats over his first three starts, didn’t have the feel for his cutter Sunday. When he fell behind to Motter, the cutter is normally a pitch he would have gone to had it been working for him.

“I wasn’t commanding well,” he said. “I didn’t wanna go 1-0 to 2-0. I felt better going with the sinker. I got it down, but missed location in and out. In a perfect world, the cutter would have been great to get a groundout.”

But to this point, the A’s rotation has held firm without Gray and with the short-term absence of Graveman. Perhaps the biggest test moving forward is whether an offense that is tied for the American League lead in extra-base hits can continue to produce consistently with Semien’s absence, particularly without anyone having established themselves as the regular leadoff man.

A’s manager Bob Melvin likes what he’s seen from his team in light of the injuries.

“Every game we go out there there’s an expectation to win,” Melvin said, “and when you win multiple games in a row, you get that feeling and it’s a little more significant. So hopefully we can carry that on to the road trip. As a group, we’ve been able to manage these injuries here recently, and once we start getting guys back it’s gonna be a good thing for us.”

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

Instant Replay: Mariners mash Triggs, A's win streak ends at five

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OAKLAND – That pristine ERA wasn’t going to last forever for Andrew Triggs, and it was no secret why things took a wayward turn for the A’s right-hander Sunday.

His command deserted him in the top of the third against Seattle, and that led to a disastrous inning that told the story in an 11-1 loss that halted the A’s five-game winning streak.

Triggs, who hadn’t allowed a single earned run in winning his first three starts of 2017, walked Robinson Cano to load the bases in the third, then issued another free pass to Nelson Cruz that forced in a run and put the Mariners up 2-0. After striking out Daniel Vogelbach, Triggs caught too much plate with a 1-0 pitch and Taylor Motter drilled it for a grand slam that made it 6-0 and put this one out of reach with the way Yovani Gallardo was pitching.

Gallardo (1-2) gave up just four hits over 6 1/3 innings as the Mariners prevented the A’s from completing their first home sweep of a four-game series since July 3-6, 2014, when they took four from Toronto.

Seattle turned it into a rout as Nelson Cruz belted a three-run homer in the seventh off Raul Alcantara, who was left in to eat up innings and surrendered two***more runs in the ninth.

Triggs (3-1), in a season-opening rotation for the first time in his major league career, opened the year by throwing 17 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That was the longest such season-opening streak by a starting pitcher in Oakland history. His ERA went from 0.00 to 2.42 with Sunday’s outing.

The A’s (10-9) finished 5-4 on their nine-game homestand that was shortened by one game due to a rainout Easter Sunday.

Starting pitching report

The first batter of the game was a bad omen for Triggs as he hit Jarrod Dyson to put the speedster on base. Dyson stole second and Cano knocked a run-scoring single to right field that quickly brought Triggs’ earned-run streak to an end. The right-hander was charged with six earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits with four strikeouts and the two walks.

Bullpen report

Daniel Coulombe entered in relief of Triggs in the fifth and provided 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Then Alcantara, who was replaced in the rotation by Jesse Hahn on the last road trip, was left in to soak up three innings to save the bullpen any more wear and tear in a lopsided game. He gave up five runs in three innings and walked two.

At the plate

The A’s, after falling behind early, couldn’t muster anything against Gallardo, who the Mariners acquired in an offseason trade from the Orioles. Their only run came in the seventh, when Ryon Healy led off with a double, moved to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single and scored on Matt Joyce’s sacrifice fly off reliever Tony Zych.

In the field

Neither team committed an error, making it five games in a row that the A’s have gone errorless. Gallardo was aided by an outstanding diving snag by third baseman Mike Freeman in the sixth. Matt Olson, drawing a start in right field for the A’s, made a sliding catch that turned into a double play when Daniel Vogelbach wandered too far off first base.

Attendance

The homestand finale drew 24,165 fans.

Up next

The A’s take Monday off and then begin a nine-game road trip against the Angels on Tuesday. The opener pits Jesse Hahn (1-1, 3.00) against J.C. Ramirez (2-2, 6.46). On Wednesday, it’s Sean Manaea (1-1, 4.43) against Matt Shoemaker (0-1, 4.98). Then Jharel Cotton (2-2, 4.76) matches up against Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 4.76) in Thursday’s finale. All three games begin at 7:05 p.m. and air on NBC Sports California.