A’s beat Rangers again, AL West still up for grabs

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One imagines the A’s would have been perfectly happy with the wild card a few weeks ago. Now they’re one game away from winning the AL West.

Travis Blackley allowed one run and three hits in six innings and the bullpen came through one more time Tuesday as the A’s topped the Rangers 3-1 to move into a tie for first place in the AL West.  They were as many as 13 games behind Texas earlier this year.

The Rangers got their only run on a Josh Hamilton double in the third. Derek Norris came back with what was supposed to be a game-tying single in the fifth, but right fielder Nelson Cruz bobbled it, allowing Brandon Moss to score the go-ahead run. Jonny Gomes hit a solo homer in the sixth to conclude the scoring for the night.

Grant Balfour, working on a fourth straight day for the first time this year, retired Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in a perfect ninth for his 24th save of the year.

Blackley excelled tonight just five days after giving up five runs in an inning in a start versus the Rangers. The A’s have won five straight after losing that game. Tonight’s appearance may well have been the of the year for Blackley, as the team doesn’t figure to carry him as a reliever in the postseason.

Wednesday’s finale will feature Ryan Dempster and A.J. Griffin as the starters. It’ll be Dempster’s first start against the A’s as a member of the Rangers. He’s 7-3 with a 4.64 ERA in 11 starts since coming over from the Cubs. Griffin is 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 14 starts for Oakland. He pitched six scoreless innings in his one outing versus Texas this year.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.