A's win again, gain ground in AL wild-card race

A's win again, gain ground in AL wild-card race

Courtesy of Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

OAKLAND — The A's are in a stretch drive where they know every game remaining has playoff implications.

With the Yankees and Red Sox having lost their games on Friday, the green and gold took advantage with a 10-5 win over the last place Texas Rangers.

Although Paul Blackburn struggled for the second outing in a row, the beleaguered bullpen got a bit of a respite with two strong seven inning outings each from Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. Those performances on Wednesday and Thursday against the White Sox couldn't have come at a better time as the Athletics know they're in a dogfight for the wild card and possibly the American League West division title.

"These guys have responded three years in a row," Manager Bob Melvin said. "They've been to the postseason three years in a row. So that's never been out of the realm of what these guys are capable of doing. You have a tough series, you have a tough road trip and now you come home and you're still in it. You expect this group of guys to respond and for the last few games they definitely have."

Blackburn was chased after a season low 2 2/3 innings giving up six hits and four earned runs. But the bullpen was stellar collectively pitching 6 1/3 innings, allowed just two hits, one run, two walks and six strikeouts.

Diolis Guerra (4-1) followed Blackburn and went 2 1/3 innings with one walk and struck out two to get the win in relief.

"Huge, "I mean that stabilized the game for us," Manager Bob Melvin said. "He (Guerra) gave us two plus (innings) did it pretty economically too. Allowed us to score a few more runs too and make it a different game so when you're looking for guys that really impacted the game today, I don't know of anyone more than him."

Matt Olson was 4-for-5 with a bases clearing single and set a new career high with 94 runs batted in.

Tony Kemp and Starling Marte each added three hits and two runs scored.

Rangers starter Glenn Otto was shelled for eight runs on eight hits in just 3 1/3 innings taking the loss.

With 21 games remaining and only two off days, the A's (77-64) are ideally hoping to win 92 games to secure a playoff berth. That means they'd have to go 15-6 which would be challenging but not impossible.

Aside from Texas, the A's remaining opponents are Kansas City, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle, and Houston.

Making things all the more intriguing is Seattle who also won on Friday and are an identical 77-64. Both teams are one game behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot and 5.5 games behind Houston for the division lead.

"Obviously we need some help from some other teams but I think the cool thing about this team is that there's no panic," Kemp said. "It's just like at the beginning of the year when we were losing, we rattled off 12 or 13 game so we're just taking care of the little things. A couple of guys are getting hot and we're playing good defense and we're pitching well. We've just got to keep going."

It's been a long time since Blackburn got his last win. He pitched most of the season at Triple A Las Vegas. But you can never have too much starting pitching so Blackburn was recalled after appearing in 17 games, 16 starts for the Aviators and was 4-7 with a 4.97 ERA.

In three starts in August, Blackburn averaged five innings per start and crafted a fine 2.81 earned run average but was 0-1 with two no-decisions. The last time Blackburn got the win was on June 29, 2018 against Cleveland.

After the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the first, the A's answered back and then some in their half of the second. Jed Lowrie walked and Mark Canha was hit by a pitch. Tony Kemp singled to right loading the bases and Sean Murphy's hit to left scored Lowrie. With Canha at third and Kemp at second, Elvis Andrus was also hit by a pitch to reload the bases. With one out, Starling Marte singled home Canha. Then Olson delivered the big hit, a bases clearing single. That broke the previous high of 91 RBI for Olson in 2019.

But alas Blackburn could not hold the five run lead and in the top of the third, Texas got three straight hits including a two-run double from Nathaniel Lowe and that got Deolis Guerra to warm up quickly in the A's bullpen. Blackburn struck out DJ Peters looking for the second out but Nick Solak singled just past the dive of shortstop Andrus into left field, scoring Lowe and sending Blackburn to an early shower.

But Oakland tacked on four more runs thanks to Marte's RBI triple, another run scoring single from Olson and Josh Harrison capped off the scoring with a bounding ball between third and short into left field to provide a six-run cushion.

The top three in the order drove in eight of the ten runs and six of the runs scored came from the lower third of the order.

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