Martin Perez didn’t have it Tuesday against the team the Texas Rangers have to beat to win the American League West, and Yu Darvish didn’t have it, again, against those Oakland A’s on Monday.
The Rangers’ hitters didn’t have comeback in them, and the A’s bullpen didn’t have a collapse in it.
What a difference a week makes.
Seven days after following a formula of quality pitching and timely hitting against a generous Oakland bullpen, the Rangers left the horrendous, embarrassing O.co Coliseum with a three-game sweep of the A’s.
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The Rangers must win Wednesday at the Globe to avoid seeing Oakland pull the three-game rug out from under them.
The A’s haven’t just won the first two games this week. They’ve been dominant, pounding the Rangers’ two best starters to date and getting quality starting efforts against a lineup that was back at full-strength, or as healthy as it can be right now.
Oakland struck for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings against Perez, who hadn’t allowed a run since April 8, and the Rangers’ undermanned, inconsistent offense didn’t stand a chance at coming back during a 9-3 loss.
The Rangers lost their third straight game and fourth in the past five. The two losses at Seattle were the result of a bullpen collapse. The past two losses have been stinkers.
“Oakland’s showed the last two nights they’re a pretty good team,” Shin-Soo Choo said. “Every 1 to 9 hitter is consistent, patient in the batter’s box. They only swing at strikes. That gives a lot of stress to pitchers. They change games.”
At the end of the day, though, it was still April and still early too early in the season to leap to any giant conclusions. Just as the Rangers didn’t scare off the A’s last week, the A’s aren’t going to make the Rangers run and hide after this series.
But almost nothing went right for the Rangers, who saw Perez’s streak of 26 consecutive scoreless innings end while fans were still filing into the ballpark, saw Michael Choice struggle in left field, saw Elvis Andrus’ drought extend to 1 for 25, saw a replay challenge fail and saw their manager turn a year older.
(The Rangers, for what it’s worth, are now 0-6 when playing on 62-year-old Ron Washington’s birthday. How ungrateful.)
At least Choo was back, reaching in all four of his plate appearances after missing six games because of a sprained left ankle. But he can’t play left field, where Choice didn’t have his finest defensive night.
After the A’s scored two in the first on a two-out double by Derek Norris, ending Perez’s terrific three-game run of zeroes, Choice couldn’t cut off a Craig Gentry liner that turned into a leadoff triple and an eventual run.
Choice couldn’t corral a Josh Donaldson drive to the warning track during the A’s five-run fourth. His former team doesn’t score if he could have held on after turning and twisting but getting in position to make the play.
“The ball was top-spinning,” Choice said. “It hit my glove and then hit off the wall.”
But the A’s weren’t simply gifted their runs. They made a quick adjustment to Perez only six days after the tossed a three-hit shutout, taking their usual patient approach, putting runners all over the bases, and hitting pitches that he left in the wrong spots.
A week ago, Perez was able to get the A’s to swing early in counts and beat balls into the ground. He needed only 109 pitches to shut them out.
When he exited Tuesday with two outs in the fifth after allowing a career-high in runs, he had thrown 87 pitches. Darvish threw 83 over 3 1/3 innings a night earlier in the opener.
“My two-seam away just stayed up, and I missed a lot of pitches in the zone and up in the zone and they got hits,” Perez said. “They looked more aggressive tonight, and I just missed in the zone up.”
The offense, meanwhile, hasn’t homered in the past five games. Alex Rios thought he had one in the fourth, but it bounded off the Southwest sign in left field for an RBI double. He was out at home while trying to score from third two batters later, killing a rally that chopped only one run off a 4-0 deficit.
“We’re not clicking,” Washington said. “We had four innings tonight when I thought if we could have scratched one run and maybe scratched a couple runs in a situation, it might have been a different ballgame.”
The A’s pulled away in the next half-inning and have clearly been the best team after two games this series.
Just as it was last week, it’s only April.
But what a difference a week makes.