Written by Jeff Weisinger/Edited by Malaika Bobino
The A’s saved their best for the last. In the final home game of the regular season, Oakland knocked around the Rangers starter Colby Lewis for seven runs, while rookie starter Jharel Cotton earned his second win of the season in the A’s 7-1 win against Texas on Sunday.
“That was the cherry on top of a bad season,” Oakland’s manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s nice to be able to go out there and score some runs and have a good-feeling game. They’re all waving and staying afterwards and wishing us well. It’s a great group of people.”
Behind Cotton’s dominant and efficient day on the mound, the A’s bats also shared the spotlight, tagging Lewis for seven runs in the second inning. They knocked him out of the game after just one out in the second. It was Lewis’ shortest start since he went just 2 1/3 innings against the Angels in July 2014.
“It was good that they responded early in the game, took a little pressure off with the big inning and multiple guys swung the bat well,” said Melvin. “It’s important. We still got seven games left and these guys want to finish strong.”
Oakland’s lineup suffered through 19 1/3 scoreless inning streak dating back to Wednesday night, when they scored with two outs in the ninth against the Houston Astros. Bruce Maxwell’s RBI single, scored in Yonder Alonso to end that drought today.
Stephen Vogt’s bases-clearing three RBI double highlighted the A’s big second inning.
The big, seven-run inning was all the rookie right-hander Cotton needed. He went a season-high seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five. His only blemish on the day was a solo home run by Texas’ third baseman Adrian Beltre, who recored his 32nd home run of the year.
Cotton tossed 70 pitches, a season-low while going the season-high seven frames, the most economic day of his early, young career as he averaged just 10 pitches per inning.
“When you look up after six innings and you got 58 pitches, you know they’re trying to be aggressive and get on his fastball before he gets to his off-speed stuff,” Melvin said.
“He just continues to impress all the way around: his composure, his mix of pitches, he’s not afraid of the stage and who he’s facing.”
Cotton improved to 2-0 in four starts this season with a 1.44 ERA, allowing just four earned runs in 25 innings pitched so far. He’s the first A’s pitcher since the earned run became an official stat in 1913 to start his career with four straight outings of five innings or more, allowing one earned run or fewer.
“Today was a fun day,” said Cotton. “I feel like today was a Sunday day game. They wanted to get away and they were swinging at every pitch. I was like, ‘Thank you, just keep swinging.’”
Although he had one of his best days yet, Cotton was still focused on the home run ball he surrendered to Beltre.
“I wish I could give up no runs,” he said. “I feel like in all my starts I give up a home run, but they’re good hitters and big league guys.”
Oakland’s third baseman Ryon Healy went 3-for-4 with two RBI on Sunday with a solo home run to cap off the A’s big second inning.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Healy said about the win in the home finale. “Obviously, when you score runs it’s exciting for the team. We’ve been in a drought the past couple of days but the bats showed up today as did [Jharel] Cotton. It’s a great recipe for a victory.”
The A’s also had a chance to extend their 7-1 lead in the seventh frame. They loaded the bases with one out, but Maxwell grounded out into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Oakland still had a seven-game road trip to end the season, however the win today sparked a much-needed sense of momentum for them going forward. They have a three-game series against the L.A. Angels starting on Monday and end the year with a four-game series in Seattle starting on Thursday.
“We walked out of here and gave the fans a positive note to leave on and hopefully build on that and bring more positivity and victories next year,” said Healy.