A's drop heated battle to Rangers
Swisher ejected for charging the mound after third HBP of set
OAKLAND -- After the A's rallied from an early six-run deficit on Friday night, outfielder Nick Swisher, who had homered to give Oakland its final lead, expressed pride in the fire with which his team has played despite being out of playoff contention.
On Sunday, Swisher exhibited some fire of his own.
Having already been buzzed by three inside fastballs while Rangers starter Vicente Padilla ran the count full against him in the first inning, Swisher didn't hesitate to make a beeline for Padilla after getting drilled in the ribs with the payoff pitch.
Swisher's sprint to the mound and subsequent tackle led to a fairly perfunctory clearing of the benches for a mid-diamond milling-about during which few punches were thrown, none of them landing.
But it also led to the ejection of Swisher, who had homered in the first three games of the series, and after several minutes of vociferous case-stating by manager Bob Geren and a meeting among the umpiring crew, Padilla also got the boot.
That set a wild tone for Texas' wild, 11-9 victory in the finale of a four-game series at McAfee Coliseum.
The A's roared back from a 6-2 deficit with a five-run third inning and snapped a 7-7 tie on Kurt Suzuki's RBI double in the fifth, but Michael Young's eighth-inning grand slam off Andrew Brown prevented Oakland's first four-game sweep at home in more than three years.
Because this was a typical A's-Rangers tilt, filled with long and sometimes messy innings, Swisher had plenty of time to cool off after the incident. In fact, he could have headed for a nearby movie theater, taken in a screening of "Transformers (2007)" -- run time: 143 minutes -- and been back in plenty of time to meet the press.
But the three hours and 42 minutes between starter Lenny DiNardo's first pitch and the last pitch of the game didn't seem to ease much tension at all.
Swisher tried to duck out of the clubhouse while the media were talking to DiNardo and had to be tracked down on his way to the parking lot for a series of clipped comments.
"I just thought I had to do what I needed to do," Swisher said. "I'm not going to say anything that's going to get me in more trouble."
Reached on his cell phone by MLB.com about 45 minutes later, Swisher was a little more expansive.
"I had to get out of there," he explained of his clubhouse exit. "You know I like to talk, but I just didn't feel like talking about this."
Swisher, who has gone deep against the Rangers six times this year, was hit by a pitch on Friday night, and after getting hit again on Saturday, he voiced his suspicions that Texas was targeting him.
The plunking by Padilla erased any doubt. And he reached his conclusion without even knowing that Padilla was suspended for five games last season after hitting the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero and Juan Rivera with pitches, or that Padilla has hit an MLB-high 75 batters since the beginning of 2002.
"Anyone who watched the series could see what was going on," Swisher said.
Asked if Padilla's three near-misses led him to believe he'd be plunked again, Swisher said, "Not really, but once the fourth one did hit me, it's pretty obvious what's happening."
Second baseman Mark Ellis agreed that it was clearly intentional.
"[Padilla] is not even worth talking about," Ellis said. "He has a bad reputation around the game. He could be a good pitcher if he wanted to be."
On Saturday night, Swisher said that he didn't think the purpose pitches were being ordered by Ron Washington, the former longtime A's coach who was hired to manage the Rangers last November. Sunday's events did not change his stance.
"No," Swisher said. "I'd like to think Wash is above that."
Ellis was certain that Washington wasn't behind it.
"I know it's not coming from the manager," Ellis said. "There's no way, I know that for a fact. He has too much respect for Swish, and he has too much respect for the game."
Said Washington: "You've got to pitch inside. You've got to pitch inside to everybody. Did I put a hit out on Swish? No."
As for why the Rangers were targeting him, Swisher insisted he had no idea.
"Who knows why the guy did it, but what's done is done," he said. "He did what he thought he needed to do, I did what I needed to do, and we'll see what happens in the future."
By then Swisher had cooled down enough to let his gregarious personality leak out a little, and he laughed when asked to assess his tackle.
"It was OK," he said. "I got the shoulder down, but I didn't wrap. You gotta wrap and drive."
Geren wasn't even close to smiling, much less laughing, while discussing the incident in his office after the game.
Any doubt that it was intentional?
"No doubt at all," Geren said. "It's the third time they hit him this series. The first pitch [today] was right at him. The third pitch was right at him. They threw one behind his back yesterday and hit him. The day before that, they hit him right in the knee.
"A guy hits three homers, you make better pitches. You don't hit him. That's not baseball."
Of Swisher's decision to charge the mound, Geren said, "You always have a choice, but how many times can you let one team hit you in a row?"
"I can see how he was frustrated," Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said of Swisher.
So could A's catcher Adam Melhuse, who has played for both teams this season. He opened the year with Oakland, was traded to Texas on June 9, released by the Rangers on Aug. 23 and signed by the A's as a free agent on Sept. 1.
Melhuse said that he wasn't aware of any anti-Swisher sentiment in the Texas clubhouse, but he, too, felt like Swisher had a bull's-eye on his back.
"I would definitely say something was up in this series," Melhuse said. "Obviously, Swish had a good series against them, and maybe they saw something they didn't like."
Melhuse also suggested that Padilla wasn't acting alone, based on the way the fateful at-bat played out.
"You could see they were on the same page, the way [Saltalamacchia] was setting up," he said. "It's obvious there was some intent."
Saltalamacchia pleaded innocence.
"I was surprised, to be honest with you," he insisted. "With a hitter like Swisher, we go inside and he hits a home run, we go outside, he hits a home run. We were trying to go in and out on him. We're not trying to hit him. It took five or six pitches -- it's not like we did it on the first pitch."
Whatever the motive or true intent, it affected the game even after the dust settled. DiNardo, who cruised through the top of the first inning, lost his command in the second and allowed five runs on two hits and four walks before being pulled with two out.
"Mentally, I was definitely in a different state [in the second inning]," DiNardo conceded. "You're in a fight mode. I kind of let it take me out of my game. ... I definitely wanted to throw at them; that was my first instinct. [But] I was told by the umpires and coaching staff to go out there and pitch.
"Unfortunately, I didn't do that very well, and I didn't stick around too long."
Having crawled back from their early deficit in the fifth, aided in part by Ellis' 18th homer of the year, the A's gave up the lead that Suzuki gave them when Brown surrendered a leadoff single to Saltalamacchia and two walks before Young's grand slam to center.
But Geren wasn't much for breaking down the game, wondering aloud, "Where do you start today?"
And when asked if it was Oakland's most disappointing loss of the year, he was equally short on words.
"All losses are disappointing," he said.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.