The Oakland Athletics started their swing through the state of Texas in exactly the fashion they needed to tonight with their 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers. It was a nice, clean, decisive victory for a team that needs confidence boosts like that after the way the previous few weeks have played out. Bartolo Colon delivered a strong outing in his final start as a man in his 30’s, the A’s cashed in on many scoring opportunities (although they failed to do so in many as well), and the bullpen mopped things up in quick fashion. It was exactly what the team needed, and its importance will be realized tomorrow evening.
May 20, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Pat Neshek (left) celebrates the victory with catcher Derek Norris (36) after the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
To say Tuesday night’s duel between Dan Straily and Yu Darvish is a mismatch would be an understatement of incredible proportions. Straily has struggled in Oakland for the most part, save for a couple instances of effectiveness. Darvish on the other hand is emerging as an ace, and has the ability to strike hitters out with extremely high efficiency. This doesn’t bode well for the Athletics chances Tuesday night. Now, I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but that’s the clear reality of the situation.
With the A’s victory in the opener, they immediately eliminate the threat of being swept in Arlington. If they lost this game, and lose the second game in all likelihood, the series finale on Wednesday would become that much more difficult to take when the Rangers smell a sweep. This team does possess the best record in the American League at 29-16, so clearly they’re winning a lot of series.
The matchup on Wednesday could possibly favor the Athletics though, as Jarrod Parker and Nick Tepesch square off. Of course the A’s have never seen Tepesch, and he’s never seen the A’s, so which team that benefits remains to be seen. With tonight’s win though and the possibly favorable matchup Wednesday the A’s stand a realistic chance of taking this series in Texas.
So while tomorrow may not be destined to go in the A’s favor, if Dan Straily can keep the Rangers offense reasonably at bey, they would stand a chance against their solid but not infallible bullpen if they can get Darvish out of the game. The “work the pitch count” strategy doesn’t always work, but many teams have a soft underbelly in their bullpen that can be exploited if they are forced into duty.
If the A’s wish to seriously get back in the race for the AL West in the short term, winning this series versus the Rangers will go a long way towards accomplishing that. After leaving Arlington the A’s will get another chance to play the Houston Astros, against whom they are 6-0 this season. While I don’t necessarily expect them to continue that absolute dominance by sweeping them again, this is a series they absolutely should be winning with relative ease. They fattened up their record in the early going against them, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t aim to do that once again this coming weekend. These are games they have to win, because if they don’t then the ones like Tuesday’s matchup against Yu Darvish become even more tough to deal with.