Rangers derail streaking A's behind Oswalt

Rangers derail streaking A's behind Oswalt

Rangers derail streaking A's behind Oswalt
OAKLAND -- Rangers starter Roy Oswalt said he is getting close to pitching at the level he was in 2010, which he maintains was as good as he's ever been in his highly successful career.

A 6-1 victory over the hard-charging Athletics supported Oswalt's claim at a time when he's trying to secure his spot in the Rangers rotation. If he can pitch consistently at his former stellar level, Texas may be able to back away from Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke and some of the other pitchers seemingly being made available before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

"I'm getting there," Oswalt said after allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday night at the Coliseum.

That the Rangers are scouting Hamels, Greinke and others, and are keeping their options open as far as starting pitching suggests they are still evaluating Oswalt. This was just his fifth start since joining the rotation, but manager Ron Washington acknowledged it was his best to this point.

"He did an excellent job," Washington said. "He had a real good mix tonight. He changed speeds, kept the ball down, got ahead of hitters. ... He did a real good job. He really did."

Oswalt allowed three hits, did not walk a batter and struck out six. He took a two-hit shutout into the seventh before giving up a leadoff home run to Josh Reddick. He then struck out Yeonis Cespedes and was pulled after throwing 103 pitches.

"Well, Roy pitched well with all four pitches," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He pitches a little differently now than he used to, when he was throwing a little bit harder. But he pitched effectively, kept us off balance with the changeup, silder, curveball, fastball -- good location with all, just had us guessing all night."

Reddick had a different opinion of Oswalt.

"I don't feel he was very good," Reddick said. "I felt like we had a lot of swings and misses.

"We had a pretty good go at him. We saw a lot of pitches early. Just bad swings in front of the ball. I don't feel like his stuff was very far out there."

The bottom line is Oswalt is 3-1 with a 5.22 ERA and the Rangers have won four of his five starts. The one loss was against the White Sox, who tagged him for nine runs in 4 2/3 innings and bloated his ERA.

"If I could take a mulligan and throw out that one game, I feel like I'm throwing the ball pretty good," said Oswalt, who was signed to a Minor League contract at the end of May and made four starts in the Minors before being called up.

He was signed after the Rangers lost Neftali Feliz to a sprained right elbow in mid-May. Feliz has just started his medical rehabilitation assignment and could be ready to return by the first week of August. By then, the Rangers should have a better feel for Oswalt.

But his work on Tuesday night gave the Rangers their third victory in four games since the All-Star break. They lead the Angels by 5 1/2 games in the American League West. Oakland, which had won nine of 10, is nine back.

Josh Hamilton, after striking out three times, hit his 28th home run of the year on Tuesday, and Adrian Beltre hit his 17th. But just as important was the speed of center fielder Craig Gentry.

Gentry had two infield singles that helped stake Oswalt to a four-run lead after four innings against Oakland starter Bartolo Colon. Gentry's second-inning diving catch of Kurt Suzuki's shallow fly ball -- with two outs and a runner on third -- also kept the Athletics from being the first to score.

"With two outs and a runner at third, I was doing everything I could to get to it," Gentry said. "I was going to dive for it if I had to. Fortunately I was able to get a read off the bat and get to it."

The Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Colon retired the first two batters and then got Gentry to hit a grounder to the right side. First baseman Chris Carter made a diving stop to his right, but Gentry outran Colon to the bag for a single.

Colon then tried to keep Gentry close and instead moved him to third with a wild pickoff throw past Carter. After Ian Kinsler walked, Elvis Andrus singled to right to bring home Gentry.

"That's what speed does for you," Washington said.

Gentry's RBI single off a suicide squeeze was also a big part of the Rangers fourth when they scored three more runs off Colon to give Oswalt a 4-0 lead.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.