The Athletics won for the 16th time in their last 20 games this afternoon, wrapping up a series sweep over the limping Rangers. The win pushes their lead to 6.5 games with 13 games left to play, effectively wrapping up the division. The Rangers lost their sixth consecutive game and haven’t won consecutive games since August 27-28. They remain tied with the Rays for both AL Wild Card spots.
It was close early. The A’s scored twice in the first on Jed Lowrie’s double play and a solo home run by Josh Donaldson. The Rangers got one back in the bottom of the first on A.J. Pierzynski’s RBI single. Outfielder Chris Young hit a solo home run in the fourth to bump the score to 3-1 in favor of the Athletics. From there, A’s starter Tommy Milone and Rangers starter Martin Perez limited the offense.
The Athletics put the game out of reach in the top of the ninth when Josh Reddick hit a two-run home run to right field off of Joakim Soria. Athletics reliever Jesse Chavez pitched a perfect ninth to finalize the 5-1 victory.
Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.
Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.
Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.
Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.
Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.