OAKLAND – With far less riding on the outcome Monday, the A’s picked up where they left off in their first game against the Texas Rangers in more than seven months.
The A’s swept the Rangers in the final series of the season last year in capturing the American League West title on the last day.
A 5-1 win Monday night didn’t carry anywhere near as much import, yet it’s the kind of victory the A’s needed on the heels of a 3-7 road trip. It’s also one the A’s might look back upon months from now as one that jump-started their turnaround.
The A’s improved to 20-20 with the victory and moved within five games of the AL West-leading Rangers.
As manager Bob Melvin said before the game, it’s nice to have the resolve and ability to rebound from a 13-game deficit, as the A’s did last season. Yet, it’s not something a team wants to count upon.
Hence, the A’s entered this series intent upon cutting into the Rangers sizable lead and making sure they got out of the way some of the heavy lifting in May.
More help is on the way, with regular center fielder Coco Crisp and backup outfielder Chris Young eligible to return from the disabled list Wednesday.
Before Monday’s game, Crisp ran the bases “well,” according to Melvin, and he also got in some work in the batting cage and the outfield.
Young got in five at-bats during an extended spring training game, though he might need an extra day or two before he returns, Melvin said.
Not a second too soon, perhaps. Center fielder Yoenis Cespedes jogged off the field in the top of the fifth due to a stomach illness, just a short time after he launched a home run.
That left the A’s without their starting lineup, given regular right fielder Josh Reddick also is on the 15-day disabled list.
A strong outing by A.J. Griffin helped the A’s mask any of their offensive or defensive deficiencies, if only for one game.
The Rangers jumped to a 1-0 lead on a long home run by first baseman Mitch Moreland in the second inning.
This time, Griffin buckled down, kept the game close and waited for the A’s bats to awaken.
It didn’t take long, which is a far cry from what Melvin witnessed on the just completed road trip.
The A’s struggled getting timely hits on their most-recent road trip. That changed in the second inning Monday, with Eric Sogard and John Jaso delivering two-out, run-scoring singles that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 advantage.
Struggling clean-up hitter Cespedes stretched the lead to 3-1 with a home run to straightaway center in the third. Brandon Moss made it 4-1 with an even longer home run to center soon after Cespedes rounded the bases.
For Moss, it ended a streak of five straight at-bats, not to mention a ton of frustration, in which he struck out.
Suddenly, an A’s starter found himself in the enviable position of pitching with a lead and forced to worry about the deficit getting too large.
Griffin responded to the challenge. He held the Rangers in check through seven innings, with eight of the Rangers 21 outs coming via strikeout.
The A’s led 5-1 by the time Griffin departed. Reliever Sean Doolittle struck out the side in the eighth on 12 pitches as the A’s refused to give the Rangers any hope of mounting a comeback. Ryan Cook closed out the game with an uneventful ninth.
BULLET HERE – Reddick said he will see how he feels after swinging a bat before he decides whether surgery is the best option for his sore right wrist. Reddick was placed on the disabled list last Wednesday. He will take swings in a week or so, he said.
BULLET HERE – Melvin said he will decide as soon as Tuesday how to use pitcher Brett Anderson once Anderson returns from the DL. Anderson “felt good” in a rehab start Sunday, according to Melvin.
BULLET HERE — Former A’s left fielder Rickey Henderson held court in the A’s locker room before the game, then donned a uniform and hit the field along with the current players.
BULLET HERE – Moss’ home run was the 7,000th in Oakland history.