OAKLAND -- Jonah Heim knew he got it. He didn’t sprint out of the batter’s box. He didn’t even jog. No, Heim held his two-handed follow-through, did a couple skips and admired his work. Just as he flipped his bat, he'd flipped the game.
Headlined by a pair of two-run homers from DJ Peters and Heim, the latter being the go-ahead shot, the Rangers stormed back to score five runs in the eighth inning and upset the A’s, 8-6, on Saturday at Oakland Coliseum. Any postseason aspirations this team may have had have long faded, but that isn’t stopping Texas from relishing in the role of spoiler.
“One of our best wins, if not our best win of the year,” said manager Chris Woodward.
This was not a game where the Rangers gradually came back, where they put up a run here, a run there and grinded their way back into the ballgame. This was a quick burst that stunned the A's and their fans in the stands.
Texas entered the eighth down four runs, having been held in check by Cole Irvin, who pitched seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts. Oakland’s offense provided plenty of support for Irvin as Starling Marte, Matt Olson and Mark Canha blasted homers off Wes Benjamin, filling in for a scratched Kolby Allard. The A’s looked well on their way to a fourth straight win, one that would further intensify an already über-competitive AL postseason picture.
Enter the Rangers and their party-crashing theatrics. After Adolis García reached on a single off Sergio Romo, Peters brought Texas within two runs by lining a two-run shot over the left-center-field fence. The air thickened; Oakland’s fans had seen this rodeo before.
The mood only became more tense when Nathaniel Lowe drew a walk, easily stole second base without a throw and scored on Yohel Pozo’s double. With a few swings, Texas was within one.
Pozo’s two-bagger knocked Romo out of the game, forcing A's manager Bob Melvin to bring in late-inning option Andrew Chafin. That set the stage for Heim, who was traded from Oakland to Texas as part of the February trade that sent Khris Davis to the Rangers and Elvis Andrus to the A's. Heim blasted an absolute no-doubt, two-run shot that evoked gasps.
Projected by Statcast at 447 feet, it was the longest home run of Heim’s career. Heim would say after the game that he hadn't ever hit a ball that far. With both the distance and the context in mind, Heim was certainly justified in soaking up the moment.
“I got that one pretty good,” Heim said. “Just having a little fun. You've got to have fun in this game, right? So, when you hit a ball that good, you can admire it a little bit.”
“I was jumping and yelling around,” Pozo said. “That was amazing.”
Was the homer any sweeter given that this was Heim’s former team? Not necessarily; Heim had played in nine games against the A’s entering play, diluting any feelings that may have been present from the first matchup. To Heim, the moment itself, the hitting of the two-run home run, was satisfaction enough.
Leody Taveras did not have a hand in the Rangers’ five-run eighth inning, but provided some insurance in the ninth with a solo shot of his own.
That comeback may not have been possible had the bullpen not held firm.
Benjamin, making a spot start for Allard, was tagged for six runs in 3 1/3 innings, but following his departure, the combination of former Athletic Jharel Cotton, Brett Martin, Spencer Patton and Joe Barlow held Oakland scoreless the rest of the way. Cotton, in particular, pitched a season-high 2 2/3 innings of near-perfect ball.
Irvin may have been equally adept at keeping the Rangers’ offense in check, but as soon as the southpaw exited, Texas pounced, not just enjoying the win, but the accompanying confidence.
With the playoffs out of reach, the goals going forward for this team are to continue to grow, develop and mature. Games like Saturday's only serve to inch Texas closer toward that.
“Right now, we have a lot of confidence on the offensive side that we’re going to put some runs on the board,” Woodward said. “That’s a beautiful thing when you see one after another after another feeding off that.”