04/21/07 1:01 AM ET
A's ride bats in easy win over Rangers
Oakland hitters pound out 13 hits in offensive onslaught
By Ken Daley / Special to MLB.com
Geren's Athletics demolished Washington's Texas Rangers, 16-4, in the opening matchup of the friends and first-year managers. A crowd of 29,782 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington could only watch, boo and leave early, as Oakland jumped to a 10-run lead by the fourth inning, and cruised to victory in the opener of a three-game series.
In winning their fourth in a row and fifth of the last six games, the Athletics set season highs for runs, walks (12) and hits (13, for the third time). Right-hander Joe Blanton (2-0) was the beneficiary as his team piled up eight runs in the second inning, two in the fourth and six in the eighth.
"This is a good park to do it in," said third baseman Eric Chavez. "This is a good hitter's park. It was nice to see. We want to be better than we've been."
Rookie right fielder Travis Buck, who found himself batting sixth for the first time in Geren's lineup, led the onslaught with a career-high five RBI. Two came on a fourth-inning home run off Bruce Chen, the first of Buck's career. The 23-year-old, who also had a three-run double and three walks, was one of six Oakland hitters to reach base at least three times.
"He had a great game," said Geren, who held an ice pack to his face after the game, having smiled far too often one day after oral surgery.
"I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not, really. Travis had good, quality at-bats for us all spring. And once the opportunity came, he's carried it over into the season."
Buck, who traded an autographed bat and ball to the fan who caught his home run in the right-field stands, said he was surprised not to be batting in the bottom third of the order. But he felt comfortable because of the opposition.
"Coming through the Minor Leagues, I'd always done well against the Rangers' Minor League system," Buck said. "That just made me feel more confident coming in here. And the only home run I hit in spring training was off [Rangers starter Brandon] McCarthy, so I knew a little about what he tries to do.
"These last couple of weeks it seemed like I was only seeing guys for the first time, so it felt good that I finally saw someone I'd seen before."
The Athletics didn't get to see McCarthy for long. The Texas right-hander faced six batters in the second inning without recording an out, making for the shortest start of his career and quickest exit by a Rangers starter this season.
Oakland sent 13 men to the plate in the second, scoring eight runs off McCarthy and Chen. It was the highest-scoring inning of the young season for the first-place Athletics (9-7).
"It was nice to see the offense have a really big day," Geren said. "Guys have been working hard and it was nice to see them get something going."
Buck's two-run homer off Chen gave Oakland a 10-0 lead in the fourth. The Rangers (6-10) scored three in the fifth to spoil Blanton's shutout bid, but the Athletics erupted for six more runs -- all with two out -- in the eighth against reliever Joaquin Benoit. Shannon Stewart and Nick Swisher homered in that inning.
Astonishingly, Oakland's Nos. 3 and 4 hitters (Chavez, pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse and DH Mike Piazza) were a combined 0-for-12 with one RBI and three strikeouts.
"I guess you can find a positive in that," Geren said. "I guess. ... Seriously, that's pretty good."
Even without the big bats contributing, the offensive outburst was a welcome change of pace for Blanton, who has received run support of one run or less in 22 of his first 68 career starts (going 0-19 in those contests). Blanton improved to 2-0 after holding the Rangers to three runs on seven hits in six innings, walking one and striking out seven.
"It's always nice to have a big lead like that," he said. "You can really relax and go after the hitters. You just have to focus in and keep plugging right at them."
Blanton took a three-hit shutout into the fifth, but a leadoff double by Ian Kinsler and a two-out RBI single by Kenny Lofton spoiled his shutout bid. Michael Young added a two-run double as the Rangers scored three in the inning.
But in the eighth against Benoit, the Athletics answered with their own two-out rally, good for six runs and a 16-3 lead. Mark Ellis doubled home two, Stewart slugged a three-run homer to left and Swisher hit a solo shot to right.
Nelson Cruz doubled home Kinsler for the final run in the bottom of the ninth off Lenny DiNardo.
Six Rangers pitchers combined to set dubious season highs for runs (16) and walks (12) allowed.
Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.