OAKLAND – Once upon a time the A’s had won 11 of 13 ballgames and sported the American League’s best record.
That was three days ago. It only seems like an eternity.
The ebb and flow of a Major League season can play funny tricks on a team. And on Wednesday afternoon the A’s boarded a Houston-bound charter, licking their wounds after getting swept in three games by the Texas Rangers and wondering how their mojo abandoned them so quickly.
“You’re going to have your little bumps in the road, everybody knows that here,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said.
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's shut out, swept at home by Rangers]
A big-picture view of things shows Oakland is still in nice shape as it heads out on a 10-game road trip that goes through Houston, Texas and Boston. The A’s are 13-8 and can look forward to four games coming up against the Astros, who they just swept last weekend.
But the past three days left a sour taste, especially given the way events unfolded. There were base runners galore left stranded in Monday’s 4-3 defeat. A ninth-inning lead slipped away in Tuesday night’s 5-4 heartbreaker. Then No. 1 starter Sonny Gray was upstaged Wednesday by Texas lefty Martin Perez, who spun his second consecutive shutout in a 3-0 victory that closed the series.
Adding salt to the wound, the A’s watched their former first-round pick, Michael Choice, deliver the game-winning RBI Tuesday and enjoy another strong game Wednesday.
“They just beat us. There’s not much you can say about that,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “They played better than we did and deserved to win. We just gotta put it past us and get on the road and get a win under our belt and start rolling again. They just beat us. Give ‘em credit.”
It’s still April, so it’s unrealistic to say this sweep inflicts heavy damage on the A’s. The bigger byproduct might be what these three games did for the Rangers’ collective psyche. Let’s remember this is a team that’s been worked over by the A’s for the past two Septembers, watching Oakland march to consecutive division titles in the process.
To come into the A’s home park and win three in a row – minus injured players such as third baseman Adrian Beltre, second baseman Jurickson Profar and starting pitchers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison – had to lift spirits in the visiting clubhouse.
Not that Rangers outfielder Alex Rios was letting on to that. He wouldn’t bite when asked if he and his teammates sent a statement by sweeping at the Coliseum.
“Every game against teams from the division are very important,” Rios said. “You wanna make the best of those games and try to win as many (as you can) so at the end you don’t have to compensate for previous losses. But you know what? They’re all important, and we’re gonna play with a lot of intensity from now on.”
He makes a good point about not wanting to play catch-up as the season winds down. If the battle between Oakland and Texas remains as close as many predict it will, series victories (and sweeps) in April are just as important as those in September.
You don’t have to tell the A’s that. After four games in Houston, they get the Rangers for another three-game series in Arlington, and they’ll have no shortage of motivation in their corner.