Chi Chi Gonzalez knew he was going to give up a run at some point in his career despite making things look easy at times in two starts, one of them brilliant, and 14 2/3 scoreless innings.
He finally yielded one run Thursday, but only one. He pitched well after a rough first inning, matching zeroes with veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir and giving the Texas Rangers a chance to win.
That’s all a team can ask from its starter.
The offense, though, couldn’t solve Kazmir, and the one run allowed by Gonzalez was likely one too many even if the Rangers’ bullpen hadn’t melted down late.
Oakland scored once in the first inning and six times in the eighth after Gonzalez departed, and the A’s pulled away for a 7-0 victory and an improbable series win after trailing in the eighth inning Wednesday night.
But while the three-game series turned into a downer for the Rangers after an opening win, the work by Gonzalez continued to exceed the lofty expectations for the club’s top pitching prospect.
“Any time you have a rookie come to the big leagues and do this type of stuff, you don’t expect three outstanding starts like that,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We knew he was a quality pitcher. We knew what he’d done and what we’d seen before he got here. We felt he was capable of giving us quality starts, and that’s exactly what he’s done.”
Banister, though, isn’t ready to anoint Gonzalez as a bona fide star, not after only 21 1/3 innings. Bumps are hiding in the road ahead, and there’s no telling how long the road is.
The Rangers are facing the real prospect of having left-hander Matt Harrison (back) and Martin Perez (elbow) ready to pitch for them before the All-Star break. In addition to having mound presence and an ability to make pitches, Gonzalez also has options remaining that give the Rangers flexibility to create a roster spot.
As 2014 taught the Rangers, no player on the disabled list can be counted upon to return. As such, Gonzalez isn’t keeping his bags packed for Triple A Round Rock. He’s just enjoying what he can as long as he can.
“Whatever happens happens,” Gonzalez said. “It’s baseball. It’s been a great ride throwing zeroes. Now I gave up a run, so I just have to keep it at that now.”
The A’s took advantage of a four-pitch leadoff walk to their first batter, Billy Burns, who quickly stole second base. He scored three batters later on a single by Ben Zobrist, but the A’s were denied more when Gonzalez got Brett Lawrie to bounce into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
After 23 pitches in the first, Gonzalez needed only six in the second. He pitched around two hits to start the third and the fifth, an inning that ended with left fielder Delino DeSheilds throwing out the speedy Sam Fuld at home as he tried to score on a Reddick flyout.
“Any play an infielder or outfielder makes is a great play to me,” Gonzalez said.
As good as the Rangers’ defense was behind Gonzalez, the A’s were flawless and at times brilliant behind Kazmir, who allowed only a clean single to center by Elvis Andrus with one out in the fourth.
Burns was the star, twice taking extra bases away from the Rangers. His best play was in the sixth when DeShields sent a hanging slider to left-center field and Burns raced into the gap and dived at the last minute for a highlight-reel catch.
Burns did it again in the eighth, twisting and running toward the center field wall, and jumping to grab a Carlos Corporan drive.
“It was tremendous play by the center fielder today,” Banister said.
Oakland pulled away after Gonzalez left following seven strong innings, eight hits and 105 pitches. The A’s scored six times against Sam Freeman, Jon Edwards and Ross Detwiler as Mark Canha and Reddick homered.
Evan Scribner completed the one-hit shutout with a 1-2-3 ninth. The Rangers have been shut out three times this season, with each one coming at O.co Coliseum.
Gonzalez (2-1) was the tough-luck loser, but he continues to shine after his first three big-league starts and is just enjoying the ride for however long it lasts.
“This league has a way of gathering information on you, and there’s going to be some adjustments that are going to have to be made,” Banister said. “We expect Chi Chi just to take the ball every fifth day and do his best to give us a quality start.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760