A's starter Gio Gonzalez, noticeably off from the start, could only watch a 1-0 game snowball following an error in the fourth. Actually, following a balk -- as it was deemed after the game.
With Ian Kinsler on third base, Gonzalez readied himself for a pitch to Justin Smoak. Before the A's lefty had completed his windup, Kinsler was speeding toward home -- a move that forced Gonzalez to act quickly and throw a ball wide to catcher Landon Powell, who reached the ball only after Kinsler crossed home plate to make it 2-0.
"I would have had him out easy if I had just stepped off, taken my time and thrown home," the A's pitcher said. "I just rushed it. It was a free out, and I kind of just threw it away myself. I don't know what happened."
However, Kinsler knew exactly what he was doing.
"I was going," the Rangers' second baseman said. "I was definitely going to try and steal home.
"In the Garko at-bat, I had his timing down. I thought I could make it. He has a pause in his windup before he goes into a high leg kick. I felt I could have gone and made it."
He did, and, as a result, confusion reigned over the 26,625 fans in attendance -- not to mention Gonzalez, as well. Home plate umpire Tim Tschida had called a ball, bringing manager Bob Geren out of the dugout to prove his pitcher's throw was just that, and not a pitch.
"I wasn't trying to get the run reversed," the A's skipper said. "He had stepped off the rubber. In the end, it was the right call."
Except Geren spoke those words before the call had been reversed, at which point Gonzalez was notified and just shrugged his shoulders.
"I thought I had stepped enough off the mound," he said, "and I don't know how they determine if it's a balk there."
Either way, it didn't lead to the best of endings for the A's, who watched the Rangers combine for 17 hits -- including five home runs, all of which came in a span of 13 batters. Gonzalez gave up one of them, a two-run shot to Josh Hamilton with no outs in the fifth that increased the Rangers' lead to four runs and led to the southpaw's early exit.
"His overall stuff was not as crisp as it has been," Geren said. "They were hitting balls hard off him from the beginning. He did a pretty good job of limiting the damage, though."
Gonzalez was able to leave Texas runners on first and second in the first two frames before tallying a 1-2-3 third inning and watching his night come to a rather quick end in the fifth. The 24-year-old lefty entered the game having given up five earned runs over his past three starts, which spanned 20 2/3 innings.
"I battled," he said. "I didn't have my best game. I was trying to throw strikes, but these guys make you pay for balls left up. Anyone's going to get hit when a ball's left up."
Unfortunately, Chad Gaudin and Henry Rodriguez had to learn that lesson the hard way following Gonzalez's performance. Gaudin, while facing just eight hitters, offered up three long balls through 1 2/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Rodriguez -- making his 2010 debut -- surrendered a two-run shot to Justin Smoak in the seventh.
"They linked together five homers in a very short period of time," Geren said. "They jumped ahead of us quickly. Before that, we were right there in the ballgame."
The lone offensive highlight for Oakland came in the top of the eighth, courtesy of a solo shot to right field off the bat of Eric Patterson, who represented the first pinch-hitter to knock one out for the A's since Kurt Suzuki did it August 15, 2008, against the Chicago White Sox.
However, the homer barely put a dent in an otherwise outstanding night by Texas' pitching staff, which was led by starter Derek Holland. Making his season debut, the Rangers' lefty put together six shutout innings of five-hit ball while walking one and fanning seven.
"He had a pretty good fastball that had real explosiveness on the end of it," Geren said. "When the ball's reaching up out of the zone like that, it's hard to catch up with it. He also had a cutter-type slider that was working. Bottom line, he threw strikes."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the A's, who gave away sole possession of first place in the American League West with the defeat and will look to regain the lead in Thursday's afternoon rubber match.
"A game like today," Geren said, "is one you try to shake off as quickly as possible."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.