BY: Richard W. Humphrey
ARLINGOTN, Texas – Oakland arrived for four games beginning Thursday with a magic number of two over Seattle to clinch the second Wild Card playoff spot. Any combination of Seattle losses and Oakland wins equaling two would send the Athletics into the playoffs. Sunday afternoon, they beat the Rangers 4-0 to split the series and earn the playoff berth, as Seattle won all four of their games after last Wednesday. Oakland’s Sonny Gray pitched the complete game shutout Sunday using 103 pitches to scatter six Ranger hits. He improved to 14-8 with the win.
Nick Martinez (5-12) was the Ranger starter and hard luck loser. He gave up just four hits over 5-2/3rds innings, but three of those four hits came to the first four batters of the second inning, and two of them scored. There had been some thought to starting Derek Holland, who was scratched with a migraine headache from Saturday’s starting assignment. Manager Tim Bogar said before the game though that he did not feel that Holland was 100% after reporting to work on Sunday, so he stayed with announced starter Martinez. Holland however relieved in the sixth and gave up two more runs in the ninth inning for the final 4-0 score.
Oakland will play Kansas City Tuesday night with the winner advancing to play the Los Angeles Angels in a best of five series. Texas next plays Oakland on opening day 2015 (April 6) in the O.co Coliseum, and Sonny Gray is likely to be Oakland’s starting pitcher.
On Thursday, Seattle won in the afternoon, so the A’s knew they could not clinch the playoff berth when the game started. The two teams battled in a well played game, decided by an Adrian Beltre walk-off home run in the ninth for a 2-1 Ranger win, the third 2-1 win for Texas in five days. It was the 35 year-old Beltre’s 19th (team leading) home run of the year, but there would be no more in the series. It was the first year since strike shortened 1981 that the Rangers did not have a player hit at least 20 home runs, and the first full season since 1980.
Another 35 year-old Ranger was the pitching star of the game as Colby Lewis started and turned in seven innings of one run ball, giving up six hits. He walked five and struck out seven in his final regular season tryout for next year’s starting rotation. He has indicated he wants to initiate talks with the Rangers as early as next week to settle his status with the Rangers for 2015. There is no question that Lewis improved dramatically over the course of the season. Over the last two months of the year, he was 3-6 with a no decision in Thursday’s game. The three wins included two complete games and his ERA was 3.57 over the final 10 starts.
Relievers Neftali Feliz (2-1) and Luke Gregorson (5-5) took the win and loss respectively.
Friday night, the A’s clinched a tie for the second Wild Card playoff spot with a 6-2 win over the Rangers. Nick Tepesch was knocked out in the fifth inning allowing all six runs, though one was unearned. Tepesch’s tryout for next year’s rotation unfortunately ended poorly as he has pitched well since the All-Star break. Saturday’s loss dropped his record to 5-11, and also ended the Rangers’ five game winning streak.
Texas again put the Athletics’ playoff celebration on hold Saturday night, beating Oakland 5-4. Scott Baker unexpectedly got the starting assignment when Holland couldn’t go. He lasted four innings, and seven relievers followed. Spencer Patton (1-0) got the win and Neftali Feliz earned his 13th save. Jeff Smolinski and Robinson Chirinos homered. Chirinos’ home run came in the seventh inning with a runner on base proved to be the winning RBIs in the game.
Texas was 14-8 under interim manager Tim Bogar, but finishes the season with 67-95 record, the worst in the American League and third worst in baseball. In the West Division, they finish 31 games behind the Angels, who had the best record in baseball at 98-64. Arizona with 64 wins and Colorado with 66 are the two N. L. teams with lesser records. The Rangers will pick fourth in next year’s June draft. Arizona will pick first, Houston will pick second by virtue of not signing their number one pick this season, followed by Colorado and Texas.
*. Spencer Patton’s win in the Saturday game was his first in the Major Leagues. He became the 23rd Ranger pitcher to win a game this season.
*. The eight pitchers used in Saturday’s game was a Ranger record for a nine inning game.