OAKLAND – As devastating injury after devastating injury has hit the Texas Rangers, it’s been tempting to discard them as a threat to the A’s.
Who knows whether the Rangers have enough staying power to make a sustained run in the American League West? But they certainly aren’t calling it a season. That much was apparent in their 14-8 victory Monday night at the Coliseum.
If the A’s were slow to snap back into focus after taking two of three from the Yankees before packed crowds over the weekend, the Rangers certainly have their attention.
The A’s can rightly point to several reasons why they lost this one -- a season-worst start from Drew Pomeranz; a bullpen that couldn’t hold the fort down as the A’s were hitting their way back into the game; three errors, two of which led to runs.
But it’s also true that the Rangers are still a team that remains a realistic factor in the division race, not to mention the wild card hunt.
This despite season-ending injuries to first baseman Prince Fielder and starting pitchers Martin Perez and Matt Harrison, and potentially season-ending injuries to second baseman Jurickson Profar and first baseman Mitch Moreland.
“Even though there’s been a lot of injuries, a lot of big guys are gone, we’re still in this,” said Rangers first baseman Donnie Murphy, who homered twice Monday. “A lot of people think they’re ready for us to (fold), but I think everybody in this clubhouse feels like we still have good enough players to make a run. I think we’re in a good spot right now.”
But it wasn’t the Rangers that likely had A’s fans swearing at their TVs, right?
It might have been Pomeranz, who lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up a career-high eight runs (seven earned). He hardly resembled the pitcher who went seven innings in his past two starts, the longest two outings of his career.
“It was probably location more than anything,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He wasn’t hitting the glove like we’ve seen before. He just had a rough outing.”
Pomeranz has talked throughout the season of the importance of getting ahead of hitters and not getting predictable. He’s mainly a fastball-and-curve pitcher, with the occasional change-up mixed in. On Monday, he said, he did get predictable.
“They were patient up there,” Pomeranz said. “I had a lot of bad counts. Those are things that I usually struggle with, is getting into a bad count.”
Or perhaps it was Ryan Cook that tested the patience of Oakland fans. It’s gone somewhat under the radar that the reliever has not been sharp since coming off the disabled list for a strained forearm. In six appearances since being activated, Cook has allowed nine hits and five walks to go with a 10.39 ERA.
“His velocity has been pretty good, he’s just missing his spots and getting behind,” Melvin said. “He’s not throwing enough strikes to be able to use his breaking stuff effectively.”
But credit the Rangers (35-35), who took two of three from Seattle leading into this series and currently are just 2 ½ games out of the two AL wild card spots.
On Monday it was once again Murphy and another former Athletic, Michael Choice, that hurt their old team, much as they did when the Rangers swept three games at the Coliseum in April. Murphy, who spent parts of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with Oakland, has just four homers this season. Three are against the A’s.
“You wanna do damage against them,” Murphy said. “It’s nothing personal, but it’s just your old team. It’s always fun when you do something that helps your team beat ‘em.”
Choice, traded to Texas in the offseason in the deal that brought Craig Gentry to Oakland, hit a two-run homer off Cook.
The A’s, still 14 games over .500 at 42-28, can take a mulligan every now and then. But they obviously need to play crisper than they did Monday. As they’ve found, the Rangers won’t be handing them anything.