The Oakland Athletics relied on a key five-run second inning to beat the Texas Rangers, 9-3, on July 27.
The Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers, 9-3, on July 27.
According to MLB.com's Jane Lee, the Athletics banked on a key five-run second inning to pull away for good:
"The A's shook off sweltering 100-degree temps and got most of their work done early Sunday evening in a five-run second inning that fueled their 9-3 series-clinching victory over the Rangers.
"A three-run fifth only separated them from the last-place Rangers, who were handed their Major League-leading 64th loss on the same day the A's recorded their Major League-leading 65th win to move a season-high 26 games over .500.
"That very statement would have been laughable if predicted at this exact time last year. Alas, the Rangers have succumbed to an inconceivable number of misfortunate injuries, allowing the A's to take center stage in the American League West.
"Yet they're not alone. The Angels have kept pace and did so again on Sunday with a win over the (Detroit) Tigers, remaining just two games back.
"When not scoreboard-watching, the A's are padding their remarkable run differential, which is a Major League-best plus-170.
"On Sunday they didn't even need a homer, after belting four in Saturday's win -- instead stringing together some walks and timely hits to force Texas starter Miles Mikolas out of the game after just 4 2/3 innings.
"Lefty Scott Kazmir only went five, but he gave up just two runs to keep his ERA at 2.37 and pick up his 12th win, tying him with nine other pitchers, including Sonny Gray, for the league lead.
"'You just never know how we're going to get it done on any given night,' said Stephen Vogt, who went 2-for-5. 'That's why it's fun to watch and fun to be a part of. Last night we score all five runs on home runs, and tonight we don't hit any.
"'The lineup right now is feeling pretty good. Top to bottom, everyone's contributing. We had walks in big situations, and we were able to talke advantage of driving baserunners in tonight.'
"The A's plated 14 runs in the final two games of the series after scoring just one in the opener. Similarly, they managed only two in last week's loss to the (Houston) Astros before going on to total 22 over two consecutive wins to secure the series victory.
"They won all three series, 2-1, since the All-Star break.
"'It's difficult at times to lose the first game of a series and then come back and win the next two,' said manager Bob Melvin, 'and we've been able to do that.'"
In a separate MLB.com update, Lee says the A's "could very well stand pat" once the upcoming July 31 trade deadline goes by:
"The A's celebrated the Trade Deadline rather early this season, making their big move on the Fourth of July with the acquisition of Cubs hurlers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
"General manager Billy Beane made it clear at that point that, though there was nothing imminent, his pre-Deadline work wasn't over -- and it still isn't.
"The A's have been eyeing second-base help amidst inconsistent performance at the position. Though there's depth there, it remains weak, particularly in terms of offensive production.
"Eric Sogard has always been considered an excellent defender, and his sure-handed glove has often been been the only reasons the A's have kept him in the lineup. Veteran Nick Punto provides the same, along with good at-bats. But he doesn't sport a high average, either, and Albeto Callaspo has been streaky along the way.
"Still, manager Bob Melvin insists he likes the team he has now, which is why he's not putting much focus on the looming Deadline.
"'I'm a guy that doesn't focus too much on that,' Melvin said. 'I know our guys are turning over very stone they possibly can to try to improve the team. Really, I'm involved when things potentially get close. They look at so many different things to try to improve the team that I don't get 100 percent involved, and I do like the team we have.
"'We've made a big trade, and it's made us better, and I'm fine with that. If they continue to look to maybe do something, that's fine, but I like the team we have.'"
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