BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Oakland Athletics completed a four game sweep of the Texas Rangers Thursday night.  Oakland blasted Texas pitching for 28 runs in the first two games, and then completed the sweep with one-run wins in the final two games.  The hot Oakland A’s move to within one game of Seattle for the second Wild Card playoff berth and to within six games of first place Houston in the American League West.

Texas ended the home stand with a pitiful 1-6 record.  For the season, they fall to 20 games under .500 at 42-62.  They are now a season high 25 games behind the Astros in the West.  As for getting out of last place, they are 10 games behind the fourth place Los Angeles Angels.

The bigger Ranger news though was the trade of Cole Hamels.  The Twitter-Verse lit up with details of the trade Thursday night.  Hamels is following Jesse Chavez to the Chicago Cubs.

The trade was officially announced Friday morning.  The Rangers are getting a starting pitcher that has been in Low-A – Rollie Lacy – as the center piece player in return.  Lacy, who tweeted that the first Major League game he ever saw was a Ranger game in Arlington, was assigned to High-A Down East.  The Rangers are kicking in approximately $8,000,000 to cover the $6,000,000 buyout of the club option on Hamels for 2019, and $2,000,000 more to offset this year’s remaining salary.  Texas also receives Eddie Butler, a pitcher that was on the Cubs’ roster.  He will initially be used in the bullpen, but could join the starting rotation later this season.  Finally, the Rangers are getting a player to be named later.  The teams have agreed on a list of players in the Cubs’ system from which the Rangers will choose.  The list has players that are not currently on Chicago’s 40-man roster and includes both pitchers and position players.

Hamels was the Rangers’ starting pitcher in Monday night’s series opening game.  He started nicely, retiring Oakland on eight pitches in the first inning.  The second inning didn’t go so well.  A walk and two singles loaded the bases with one out.  Hamels’ former catcher with the Rangers – Jonathan Lucroy – then planted a low outside pitch in the left field seats – grand slam home run and 4-0 lead for Oakland.

The carnage wasn’t over.  Hamels walked another batter and then gave up a single and a Khris Davis double to plate the fifth run of the inning.  Davis always seems to haunt the Rangers, and did he ever in this series.

Texas came back with two runs in the third inning on Elvis Andrus’s third home run of the year.  However, Stephen Piscotty matched Andrus with a two run shot in the fifth inning to extend the A’s lead to 7-2.  That finished Hamels’ night.  Five innings pitched.  Seven runs, all earned, allowed on nine hits and two walks.

Matt Moore relieved, and his miserable year continued.  He pitched the sixth inning, but couldn’t complete the seventh as the A’s touched him for five runs on six hits.  Alex Claudio relieved Moore and finished the seventh inning, but when Claudio got into trouble in the eighth inning, Ranger manager Jeff Banister had seen enough of his relief corps.  He brought in outfielder Carlos Tocci to get the final two outs.

Ryan Rua was then summoned to pitch the ninth inning.  It was the first time in Ranger history that two position players pitched in a game.  15-3 was the final score.  Hamels is 5-9 with the loss, and his ERA is up to 4.72.

On Tuesday, the Rangers suffered their most disillusioning loss of the season.  Mike Minor was the starting pitcher, and he pitched well, despite struggling with his control.  The control problems caused him to throw 104 pitches to eke through five innings.  On the scoreboard though, the A’s had only a pair of solo home runs.

When Minor left the mound, the score was tied at two, but the Rangers scored two runs in their half of the fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead and put Minor in line to be the winning pitcher.  An inning later, the Rangers seemingly had the game put away, as they exploded for six more runs to take a 10-2 lead to the seventh inning.

From there, nothing went right for the Lawmen.  Oakland scored three in the seventh and four in the eighth to pull within one run at 10-9.  The problem was that Ranger relievers could not get the ball over the plate.

Brandon Mann, the fresh bullpen arm summoned from AAA started the seventh inning.  He retired just one batter while walking two and allowing a hit.  Jose Leclerc finished the inning, but not before all three runners Mann put on base scored.

Jake Diekman took over in the eighth inning.  He got the first batter to ground out, but then walked the bases loaded.  He then coaxed a tailor made double play ground ball to shortstop Elvis Andrus.  Andrus booted the ball, and all the runners were safe.  Diekman then hit a batter to force home the third run of the inning and finish his night on the mound.  Keone Kela relieved and gave up a single that scored two more runs before retiring the side.

Stephen Piscotty hit Kela’s first pitch of the ninth inning for a game tying home run.  It was Kela’s first blown save of the season after earning 23 saves.

That sent the game to extra innings after the Rangers didn’t score in the ninth.  Khris Davis homered with two runners on base in the 10th inning to cap off the 13-10 win.  Austin Bibens-Dirkx surrendered the home run to take the loss and fall to 2-3.

On Wednesday, the Rangers suffered perhaps an even more demoralizing loss.  They built a 5-1 lead behind a terrific start from Martin Perez.  Robinson Chirinos hit a three run home run in the third inning, and the Rangers added two more in the fifth inning on run scoring singles from Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre.  Perez meanwhile completed six innings, allowing the run on seven hits.

Ranger killer Khris Davis, who had homered in the last five games between Oakland and Texas struck again in the seventh inning with a three run shot off Cory Gearrin.  That made the game a nail biter at 5-4.

It was still 5-4 when Oakland came to bat in the ninth inning.  Davis was due up fourth.  Leclerc was in to pitch, as Kela was unavailable after throwing 40 pitches the previous night.  Leclerc walked Nick Martini with one out, and when Jed Lowrie struck out instead of hitting into a double play; Davis got to bat again.  Texas got within one strike of the win, but Davis hit the only fast ball of the at bat into the right field seats on a 2-2 count.

That gave the A’s a 6-5 lead, which became the final score when all three Ranger hitters struck out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Thursday’s game was a nip and tuck affair.  Both teams scored two runs in the first inning an another in the second inning.  Oakland put up three more runs in the fourth inning to take a 6-3 lead.  Texas cut that lead to a single run when Jurickson Profar tripled home two runs in the fifth inning.

Bartolo Colon weathered through seven innings.  The A’s added what proved to be a much needed insurance run in the eighth inning with a triple and sacrifice fly.

The Rangers had plenty of chances to score, and just did not capitalize.  They were 4-20 in the game with runners in scoring position.  They put the lead-off batter on base in each of the last three innings, but managed to score just one of them which came home on a wild pitch.

That made the final score 7-6 completing Oakland’s sweep.  Colon is 5-9 with the loss.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier from here for Texas.  They travel to Houston for three games this weekend.  The starting pitchers were announced as Yovani Gallardo on Friday night, Cole Hamels on Saturday night, and Mike Minor on Sunday afternoon.  With the trade of Hamels, Ariel Jurado will be called up from AA Frisco to start Saturday’s game.

This weekend will wrap up the season series with the Astros.  Houston has already staked its claim the Silver Boot trophy by winning 12 of the first 16 games between the two teams this season.


*     Rougned Odor was named American League “Player of the Week” for the week ended July 22.  He went 8-13 (.615) with a home run and three RBIs in the week abbreviated by the All-Star break.  He is the first Ranger to win the award this season.

*     There were five triples hit in Thursday’s game, four by the A’s and one by the Rangers.  It was the first game at Globe Life Ballpark with five triples.

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