OAKLAND – Bartolo Colon’s body language would never show it, but the top of the fifth had to frustrate the veteran right-hander.
A couple of comebackers that could have been outs. An RBI double to the right field wall. A two-out bloop that fell for a run-scoring single.
It was not the efficient night of work Colon (14-6) has delivered so many times at the Coliseum.
The result was a 5-1 Texas Rangers victory over the A’s on Tuesday that tied this three-game series and dropped Oakland back out of first place in the American League West.
So much has gone right for the A’s over the past week. But Tuesday night was a reminder of the dogfight they’re in for over the final 24 games.
Oakland leads Tampa Bay by 2 ½ games for the A.L.’s top wild card spot, but the A’s are aiming for the bigger prize of a division title. They’ll face Rangers ace Yu Darvish in the rubber match of this three-game set Wednesday.
Starting pitching report
Colon worked some magic early when he put a runner at third with one out in the first and third innings, then walked off the mound unscored upon each time. But his second start since coming off the disabled list would not end smoothly. He hung a changeup over the plate that Mitch Moreland hit for a game-tying solo homer in the fourth. Then the Rangers scored three in an odd sequence of events in the fifth.
Two comebackers gave Colon problems. He couldn’t field Craig Gentry’s chopper back to him, and it went for an E-1. Jurickson Profar followed by drilling a 3-1 pitch for an RBI double. Then Ian Kinsler’s comebacker caught Colon on his right hand and went for a single. Trainers checked on Colon, who stayed in. Adrian Beltre’s groundout scored a run and A.J. Pierzynski’s two-out blooper fell for a run-scoring single that made it 4-1.
Colon ran his fastball up to the 92-93 mph range, but his location betrayed him a couple of times and he paid for it. He allowed eight hits and four runs (one earned) in five innings, with three strikeouts and zero walks.
Four relievers held the Rangers to one run over the final four innings. Hard-throwing lefty Pedro Figueroa made his season debut for the A’s and allowed a double and walk to his only two batters faced. Jesse Chavez allowed Alex Rios’ solo homer in the eighth.
At the plate
Guess who gave the A’s an early lift? Coco Crisp, who started at DH despite a shin contusion, doubled down the left-field line to lead off the bottom of the first. He scored on Jed Lowrie’s sacrifice fly but that was the only trace of offense from the A’s despite their 11 hits.
Josh Donaldson got too aggressive on the base paths in the third. On second with two outs, he advanced to third on Cespedes’ infield single to the left side. Profar, playing short, stopped the ball going to his right, and Donaldson rounded third – running through base coach Mike Gallego’s stop sign – and was thrown out easily at the plate.
He dished a hard hit on Pierzynski in an effort to jar the ball loose. Pierzynski tapped Donaldson with his mitt as Donaldson rose to his feet, then Pierzynski glanced back at Donaldson as he was heading to the visitors’ dugout. That was one instance where Donaldson’s aggressive style of play got the best of him.
Michael Choice collected his first big league hit when he tapped an infield single to the left side. The rookie can fly down the line.
In the field
Colon had his adventures on balls hit back at him, but the A’s also turned in some defensive gems. The highlight came from Donaldson, who ran full speed toward the railing along third base and made a diving catch of David Murphy’s foul pop. Donaldson flew across the rolled up tarp along the wall and fell in the tight space between the tarp and the wall. He earned style points, too, for managing to hold his glove up to show he caught the ball as he was falling.
Choice, making his first big league start in right field, made two sliding catches, including one to rob Alex Rios and end the top of the fifth. Chris Young showed good range hauling in Pierzynski’s liner to left-center to save a run in the top of the first.
A crowd of 16,133 showed up and was in a feisty mood all night. A’s fans had plenty to boo.
As pitching matchups go, the A’s and Rangers saved the best for last. Jarrod Parker (10-6, 3.59) squares off against Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish (12-6, 2.73) in the 12:35 p.m. series finale Wednesday. Parker is 5-1 with a 2.93 ERA in six starts against Texas. Those are his most wins against any team.