With the chance for a third straight division title vanishing during their recent collapse, the Oakland Athletics need to quickly bounce back as they continue chasing a playoff spot.
They’ll look for Sonny Gray to help them recover from a biting loss Thursday as they close out this home series with the Texas Rangers.
The Athletics (83-68) watched their unlikely bid for another AL West crown end Wednesday with a demoralizing 6-1 defeat against Texas that handed the division to the Los Angeles Angels.
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Oakland held a 1-0 lead until the ninth before closer Sean Doolittle buckled for two walks, three hits and five runs while recording just one out – wasting a strong start by Jeff Samardzija, who struck out 10 over eight innings of four-hit ball.
Doolittle came in with a 15-inning scoreless streak before his first blown save since June 30. He also entered with a 0.89 ERA over 19 career appearances against the Rangers.
It marked the fourth time in 10 games that the Athletics surrendered the go-ahead run in the opponent’s final inning.
Oakland’s 11-24 record since Aug. 10 is tied with Arizona for the majors’ worst in that span. Meanwhile, the rival Angels – who won 5-0 over Seattle – are a big league-best 27-9 in the same stretch.
The Athletics have averaged just 3.3 runs in that span after previously leading baseball with 4.9 per game. Sam Fuld’s single accounted for their only run Wednesday and they finished with 10 stranded runners, squandering a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the eighth.
Oakland is tied with Kansas City atop the wild-card standings, while the Mariners are two games back.
"It’s going to be a turning point one way or another," Doolittle said. "After the season’s over, are we going to look back and point to tonight and be like, ‘This is the game where finally the wheels came off for good,’ or are we going to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and talk about how resilient we are as a team and how we were able to overcome a game like this and still get it done?"
Sonny Gray (13-8, 3.18 ERA) has mirrored his team’s slide by going 1-4 with a 4.85 ERA over his last eight starts. More recently he’s looked the part of a pitcher who previously posted a 2.59 ERA, limiting his last two opponents to a combined four runs in 15 innings.
He’s been dominant in three straight victories against Texas, yielding just three runs in 22 2-3 innings.
The Rangers (59-92) have allowed 10 runs during a five-game winning streak that matches a season best.
Nick Martinez (3-11, 4.93) gave up two earned runs over 10 innings in two games against Oakland, though he didn’t record a decision in either appearance.
The rookie has managed to string together two straight quality starts for only the second time, though he was the loser in last Thursday’s 7-3 defeat against the Angels.
"I think Martinez is going straight upward," interim manager Tim Bogar said.
Rougned Odor drove in Elvis Andrus for the tying run Wednesday and J.P Arencibia followed Adrian Beltre’s intentional walk with a three-run homer.
Odor has hit .333 over his last 12 games, has five RBIs over the last five and is 10 for 27 against Oakland after doubling twice.
Josh Reddick, who has hit .180 over his last 16 contests, is 3 for 4 against Martinez.