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Rangers Rope Blackburn, A’s 11-8

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Texas Rangers Marcus Semien (2) scoring against Oakland A's catcher. | Image by Lachlan Cunningham, Getty Images

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The Texas Rangers and Athletics series finale featured two of the best baseball starting pitchers, one of which would hold up to the billing.

Less than a week ago, Martin Perez and Paul Blackburn were on the same team, but Sunday afternoon in Oakland, the two faced off in a lefty vs. righty pitching duel as the Rangers looked to avoid getting swept in a three-game finale against the A’s. Perez would prove masterful in the outing, pitching seven solid innings in a Rangers 11-8 victory.

Perez, Texas’ pitching staff ace with a 7-2 record coming into the day, and Blackburn were both selected to the 2022 MLB All-Star Game in Los Angeles on July 19. Both tossed perfect frames in the contest to help the American League beat the National League, 3-2.

After struggling to score runs the night before, the Rangers ambushed the A’s all-star in the first inning. Jonah Heim, getting the start in right field instead of his usual catcher, bashed a double to left field to score Corey Seager, who made his way on board after being hit by a Blackburn 80 MPH curveball. Adolis Garcia, team leader in RBI, knocked Blackburn’s next pitch into the left field seats, giving the Rangers an early 3-0 lead.

Perez had his own difficulties in the first inning, but not as severe as his pitching foe. He found himself with runners on first and second following a single and a walk and Oakland’s clean-up hitter, Chris Pinder, next to bat. Perez calmed the waters by fanning Pinder, looking and getting former Ranger’s teammate Elvis Andres to ground out to third and quash the scoring threat.

From there, Perez cooked on the mound while his teammates continued to boil at the plate.

Texas leads the American League in stolen bases (76), is sixth in runs scored, and is fourth in home runs. The Rangers had been lacking in all those categories during the first two games of the series in the East Bay, but all came back to life on Sunday afternoon.

Texas added to their lead in the fourth with a two-out run-rally sparked by a line drive single by Garcia. Garcia would swipe second on the first pitch with the next Ranger, Taveras, at bat. Taveras (who has batted 8-19 with eight RBIs against Oakland this season) singled up the middle to plate Garcia and give Texas a 4-0 lead.

In the top of the fifth, the Rangers continued to break Blackburn. Seager led the inning with a home run to center field that tipped off the center fielder’s glove before clearing the fence. Two batters later, Hiem hit his second double of the game on a ball that hit off the top of the right-field wall. Hiem side-stepped a tag at second as he successfully stretched one base to two. Black would allow RBI singles for Kole Calhoun and Ezequiel Duran before being yanked with one out in the inning.

Blackburn was charged with 10 earned runs on 10 hits and two walks while also striking out five. His record sinks to 6-6 on the year after the loss.

Meanwhile, Perez continued holding steady on the hill for Texas. The 31-year-old southpaw cruised through innings seven, allowing one run on four hits with three walks, and six of his 23 outs came via strikeouts. “He showed his stuff today and why he’s one of the best lefties right now in the game,” A’s Manager Mark Kotsay told reporters after the loss.

Martinez runs his record on the year to 8-2. He’s 4-0 in his last seven starts with an ERA of 3.30,  five wins behind American League victory leader Justin Verlander of Houston.

Garret Richards, Jose Leclerc, and Brett Martin combined to stitch together the final three innings, combing for seven earned runs on seven hits with one base on balls and four strikeouts in the Ranger’s victory.

Garcia would finish the 4-for-4 as the Rangers pounded 16 hits as a team in the win and avoided being swept by the Athletics.

“They should square up, [those] that were over the middle of the plate, and when we executed a good pitch, it seemed like it [the ball] found a hole,” Kotsay said of the Rangers. “Sometimes you have those days where you know the offense just seems to find holes on good pitches, and then that’s kind of how it felt.” 

Texas, now 43-51, next travels north to Seattle to take on the Mariners as they make their way through a four-city, 11-game west coast road swing, which concludes on July 31 in Anaheim.

Probable pitchers for the contest are Dane Dunning (1-6, 4.42) for Texas and George Kirby (2-3, 3.76) for Seattle. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:10 CDT.

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