BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

The Oakland Athletics have the best record in baseball since June 15, and the Texas Rangers saw why this week.  The Rangers scrambled to win Wednesday afternoon’s series finale to avoid a sweep after being steam rolled by terrific starting pitching in the first two games.

Mike Fiers started game one for Oakland.  He was pretty low in the pecking order of starting pitchers rumored to be available at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.  He in fact was not traded until August after dealing with the waiver process.  Unfortunately for the Rangers, he may be the best starting pitcher on the field that was traded around July 31.

On Monday night, Fiers made his third start for Oakland, and he was outstanding.  He shut out the Rangers for seven innings on one hit.  He walked one and struck out eight on 100 pitches.  He’s now 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA since the trade from the Tigers, and Oakland has won all three games he has started.  He’s 9-6, 3.21 on the season.

Run support was no problem.  Bartolo Colon made the start after not being able to go a day earlier in Arlington because of back stiffness.  He reportedly was walking around the clubhouse rather gingerly before the game.

During the game, he wasn’t able to get his pitches down in the strike zone.  He lasted five innings giving up 10 hits.  Three of the 10 were home runs that drove in six runs.  (Ranger killer Khris Davis naturally hit one of them!)  Four more hits were doubles, such that seven of the 10 hits went for extra bases.  He gave up seven runs on the night to run his ERA to 5.45.  He’s 7-11 with the loss.

Jeff Springs and Alex Claudio finished the game.  Each one surrendered a run to make the final score 9-0, as the Ranger hitters managed two hits and no runs off the two relievers that followed Fiers.

Tuesday’s middle game of the series was almost a carbon copy of game one.  Former Oklahoma State Cowboy Brett Anderson was just as good as Fiers, as he too threw seven shutout innings giving up just a walk and a single.  Jeurys Familia and Lou Trivino completed the shutout giving up just one more hit.

Rookie Ariel Jurado was the Rangers starter, and he gave up four runs on 10 hits over 5-1/3rd innings.  He was actually a little better than those numbers indicate.  Ranger manager Jeff Banister said he thought there were only three hard hit balls off him, and three of the four runs scored in the fifth and sixth innings after he’d been through the A’s batting order twice.  He took the loss to go to 2-3 on the year.

Matt Moore relieved Jurado and finished the game, giving up two more runs to make the final score 6-0.

The Rangers’ scoreless innings streak ended quickly on Wednesday afternoon.  Shin-Soo Choo hit the first pitch of the game for a home run.  It gave the Rangers a lead they never relinquished.

Choo walked to start the third inning and later scored on Adrian Beltre’s single.  Joey Gallo homered in the fourth inning.  Elvis Andrus singled in the fifth inning, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on another single from Beltre.  That put the Rangers ahead 4-0.

Mike Minor was the Ranger starter, and once again, he was very good.  He completed six shutout innings on 73 pitches allowing just one hit.  Oakland finally cracked the scoreboard with single runs in the seventh and eighth innings off Cory Gearrin and Chris Martin.

Jose Leclerc put the quietus on the A’s in the ninth, though, to nail down his sixth save in the 4-2 Ranger win.  Minor is 10-6 with the win.

The trip to the “city by the bay” continues Friday after an off day on Thursday.  The Rangers face the San Francisco Giants on Friday night and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  The Rangers announced starting pitchers are Drew Hutchison, Martin Perez and Yovani Gallardo.

The Giants will start two Dereks (one is actually “Dereck”) with Rangers ties.  Dereck Rodriguez is scheduled to start Friday’s game.  He’s the son of Ranger Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez.  Derek Holland, a former Ranger that pitched the best post-season game in Ranger history in the 2011 World Series, starts Sunday.


*     The A’s have won the season series against Texas as they now hold a 10-6 edge.  Texas goes back to Oakland September 7, 8 and 9.

*     The Rangers have 99 home runs from players in their age 25 and younger season.  Joey Gallo leads the way with 33.

*     Jose Leclerc has thrown 11 shutout innings in his last 11 appearances.  He has an 0.79 ERA in his last 22 appearances.

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