Early lead erased, A's come back in 13th
Club held a seven-run lead; Piazza hits go-ahead single
ARLINGTON -- This is Bob Geren's first year as the A's manager, but he's been on the coaching staff at the big-league level for five years, so he's well aware of Oakland's penchant for playing long, strange games in Texas.
So after Marco Scutaro hit his first career grand slam as part of a six-run rally with two outs in the first inning Monday, he turned to pitching coach Curt Young and said, "This feels more like a 3-0 lead."
And sure enough, the A's managed to squander all of an early seven-run lead before Mike Piazza's two-out single in the top of the 13th gave the A's a wild 9-7 victory in the opener of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark.
"We've had a history of games just like this here," he said. "You never have a big enough lead."
Down 7-0 after the top of the third, the Rangers scored three in the bottom half of the frame, three more in the eighth, and Michael Young's homer to right field tied it up on Alan Embree's first pitch of the ninth.
"Embree's got a great fastball," said Young, who was ejected in the 11th inning for arguing a called third strike. "I was looking for something up in the zone."
Geren said Young's homer would have been a routine flyout in most other parks, and Embree, who had retired the previous 22 batters he'd faced over a six-game span, didn't disagree.
"It was a harmless first pitch in a good location," said the veteran lefty. "I honestly thought it wasn't gonna make it out."
But it did, so the game wore on. Embree went into damage control and ended up striking out four in two innings of work. Andrew Brown followed by striking out five in two innings, and Oakland's seventh pitcher of the night, Kiko Calero, nailed down his first save of the season by striking out Marlon Byrd -- four hours, 33 minutes after the first pitch -- with two on in the bottom of the 13th.
The A's pitching staff finished with 21 strikeouts for the game. The last time a team had registered at least 20 strikeouts in a game came on July 6, 2005, when the Marlins fanned 22 Brewers.
"A game like that is a big one to win," Geren said. "Especially with the stress we put on our bullpen."
Rob Bowen drew a leadoff walk from Willie Eyre in the top of the 13th and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Travis Buck. After Shannon Stewart fouled out and Nick Swisher was intentionally walked, Piazza dumped a single into right to score Bowen. Mark Ellis followed with an infield single to score Swisher.
"Coming back to win it was huge," Embree said. "Nobody gave up."
After striking out Buck and Stewart to open the game, Rangers starter John Rheinecker gave up consecutive singles to Swisher, Piazza and Ellis, with Ellis' hit opening the scoring. Dan Johnson followed with a walk to load the bases, and Scutaro unloaded them by unloading on Rheinecker.
Three pitches after Scutaro's fifth home run of the year landed in the left-field bleachers, Donnie Murphy belted an 0-2 pitch over the wall in center for his second homer of the season.
Johnson led off the third inning with a double to left-center and scored when Kurt Suzuki grounded into a double play, but the Rangers started their comeback against A's starter Dallas Braden in the bottom half of the frame. Gerald Laird led off and reached first on an error by shortstop Murphy, eventually scoring on a two-run double by Sammy Sosa that was followed by an RBI single from Byrd.
A's righty Santiago Casilla helped Ruddy Lugo get out of a jam in the seventh, striking out Byrd with runners on second and third, but a single by Nelson Cruz and a first-pitch homer to center by Jason Botts chased Casilla with nobody out in the eighth. Jarrod Saltalamacchia greeted Huston Street with a double to deep center and eventually scored on a fielder's choice grounder to get the Rangers within one.
Young and longtime A's infield coach Ron Washington, now the Rangers' first-year manager, were ejected from the game in the 11th inning after a called third strike on Young.
The Rangers seemed displeased with Miller's generous strike zone all night, and after Young was tossed, Washington bolted out of the Texas dugout for a long, heated and animated discussion that ended with Washington walking off the field to a standing ovation from what fans remained from the announced crowd of 24,737.
"I thought [the ejection] was real quick," Washington said. "We fought back, got in the ballgame, and the intensity went up. If Mike is upset about it, I am too. ... We're trying to win a ballgame."
Instead it was the A's who won, avoiding another ugly chapter in Arlington.
In May 2000, Oakland led the Rangers 15-7 in the bottom of the seventh inning here, only to lose 17-16. Last May, the A's had a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth and lost 8-7.
"You've seen this kind of game before," Geren said. "I've seen it too many times."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.