Story by Brian Brownfield ( Martinez News-Gazette )
Photos by Tod Fierner
OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s starting to feel like the Oakland Athletics we expected to see in 2020 are making their appearance. After beginning the season 3-4, the A’s picked up their sixth-straight win of the season on Thursday afternoon, finishing off a sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 6-4 final at the RingCentral Coliseum. Oakland runs its record to 9-4 while the Rangers fall to 3-8.
As the A’s offense has slowly been coming out of its shell lately, crooked numbers have become more common. Oakland put up a four-spot in the fourth and got it going with some great at bats against Rangers starter Mike Minor. Ramon Laureano led off with a single to the right side, vacated because of the shift. Matt Chapman followed with a walk, and Mark Canha drove home his eighth run of the year with an RBI single up the middle, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead.
With one out in the inning, we saw more recent success from Khris Davis, who struggled mightily coming out of the gate. He smacked a single to left field that plated a pair, doubling the A’s lead and continuing to show that he has found his timing at the plate. Stephen Piscotty drove home the final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to center, and suddenly the A’s were up 5-0.
Mustaches are back in Oakland, and so is Matt Olson. After a slow start to the season, Olson sported a mustache during Wednesday’s win and homered twice, his first home runs since Opening Day. In the bottom of the second, he launched his third home run in five plate appearances since growing his lip lettuce, giving Oakland an early 1-0 advantage.
Mike Fiers took the mound for Oakland and delivered his longest start of the 2020 season. Pitching behind the early run-support, Fiers did not allow a hit through the first three innings. After allowing single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, Fiers went back out for the 7th inning up 5-2. He quickly allowed a leadoff single to Isiah Kiner-Falefa and then the first MLB homer for Anderson Tejeda, and suddenly it was 5-4. This ended the day for Fiers, who went 6+ innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, walking two and striking out two.
Oakland’s bullpen tossed three shutout innings, giving them just two earned runs allowed over the last 25.2 innings, but they didn’t make it easy on Thursday. T.J. McFarland allowed a one-out double in the seventh, while Yusmeiro Petit allowed three singles in the eighth, but stranded the bases loaded without allowing a run home. Liam Hendriks allowed a leadoff single in the ninth, but got a line-drive double play to end the game off the bat of Willie Calhoun.
Up next for Oakland: their first series in 2020 against the defending American League champion Houston Astros, with a three-game series beginning on Friday at 6:10 pm. This marks the first meeting between the two teams since the Astros received punishment from MLB for a cheating scandal that dates all the way back to 2017, which resulted in a loss of draft picks and the suspension (and eventual release) of their general manager and manager. Zack Greinke will take the mound for Houston, while Oakland will counter with Chris Bassitt.