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.
Sure, a 5-1 win Monday night at the Coliseum didn’t carry anywhere near as much import as capturing the American League West title with a three-game sweep of the Rangers to close the season.
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.
“It’s more just a good win for us as opposed to a statement game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We just need to get on a roll, start playing a little better and hopefully this is the first sign of that.”
The A’s improved to 20-20 with the victory and moved within five games of the AL West-leading Rangers.
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.
A strong outing by starting pitcher A.J. Griffin helped the A’s mask any of their offensive deficiencies, if only for one game. He finished with eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.
The Rangers jumped to a 1-0 lead on a long home run by first baseman Mitch Moreland in the second inning. Griffin buckled down, kept the game close and waited for the A’s bats to awaken.
Melvin and outfielder Brandon Moss said the key to the game was Griffin keeping the game close and then the A’s striking back with two runs in both the second and third innings.
“It gave Griff some breathing room, and he’s allowed to throw his game,” said Moss, who combined with center fielder Yoenis Cespedes on back-to-back home runs to center in the third inning.
Given a comfortable lead, Griffin settled into a rhythm, relied upon his control and worked without fear of making a mistake.
“The big key is to not let things snowball. … We just feel real confident, especially once we get a lead going,” Griffin said.
Why not, when you can turn over the ball to the likes of Sean Doolittle, Cook and Grant Balfour?
Doolittle struck out the side on 12 pitches in the eighth and Cook navigated his way through the ninth without difficulty.
Suddenly, in less than 2 ½ hours, the A’s no longer dwelled on the disastrous road trip and shifted their focus toward cutting even further into the Rangers lead Tuesday.
“We’ve been scuffling a little bit, it’s no secret,” Cook said. “But inside this clubhouse our identity is still the same. We still trust each other. Sometimes you just need that one game to get back on track and hopefully that was it tonight.”
BULLET HERE – Right fielder Josh 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 – Cespedes left the game with what Melvin called a “stomach ailment” after four innings. Moss moved from right field to center, with Michael Taylor taking over in right field. Melvin said Cespedes “should be” able to play Tuesday.
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 – Melvin wore a gold Warriors T-shirt under his jersey in showing support for the A’s Coliseum neighbors.
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.