A's can't overcome Rangers in extra frames

A's can't overcome Rangers in extra frames

ARLINGTON -- A's manager Bob Geren was questioned rather incessantly when he made the unusual decision to go with a nine-man bullpen last week.

"That's what fits the club's current needs," the skipper insisted.

Well then Dallas Braden went and threw a perfect game, and Geren's plan appeared all the more unnecessary.

By the time the A's left Texas on Thursday, though, he didn't look so foolish. In three American League West games against the Rangers this week, all nine relievers were put to use. In fact, five made two appearances.

None of the nine, however, could avoid an extra-innings 2-1 loss at Rangers Ballpark on Thursday.

Closer Andrew Bailey, who ended a career-high 21 2/3 scoreless innings streak Tuesday in an eventual 7-6 A's win, surrendered a walk-off single to Vladimir Guerrero in the bottom of the 12th inning to suffer his first loss of the season.

"I just missed my spot," the reliever said. "That's when you go back to the drawing board and come back out there the next day.

"It was a cutter. I threw it in the same spot on the first pitch and started away so that it would end up slightly off the plate, and [Guerrero] did a nice job of pulling it. You gotta tip your cap."

Said the Rangers' designated hitter: "It was a long game and I was 0-for-5, so I was just trying to give good contact to the ball, and I did it. I found it and got the run in."

Bailey's loss gave the A's their second consecutive defeat, as the team dropped two of the three-game set, which spanned a combined 34 innings and 11 hours and seven minutes. After scoring seven runs in Tuesday's opener, the A's tallied a total of just two runs in the final two contests compared to Texas' 12 -- 10 of which came Wednesday.

"I thought it was actually a pretty balanced series," Geren said. "I think, other than the one game with all those homers, we matched them pretty well. You gotta like the way our pitching handled their lineup.

"Every time we play it should be a good series. I don't like losing two of three, obviously."

Before Oakland's bullpen combined for 5 1/3 innings of work, starter Ben Sheets took the bump and settled for a no-decision following a six-plus innings effort that resulted in one run, three hits, three walks and eight strikeouts.

The right-handed pitcher entered the afternoon affair with an 0-2 record in three road starts, in which the righty coughed up 20 earned runs in just 13 1/3 innings. He endured no such troubles Thursday, though.

"That might be the best start he's had all year," Geren said. "He's going to have a good season -- you can see it. He's added a couple things to his repertoire ... he's getting crafty, and it's really showing."

Sheets has been hush hush regarding said change, which formed in the midst of his Toronto start on May 2. On Thursday, though, both Geren and batterymate Josh Donaldson confirmed the veteran has been working with a new cutter.

Just don't tell Sheets.

"It ain't no cutter," he insisted. "It's an unspecified pitch."

"We call it a cutter," Donaldson said just minutes later. "It's not a put-away pitch. It helps him get off his fastball. It's about 5-6 miles per hour slower than the fastball. ... Our job is to get hitters off balance so they're not just sitting on a fastball.

"He's been using the cutter similarly as he would use the changeup, but the cutter just allows everything else to be better."

No matter the name, there's no denying its effect on the once-struggling pitcher, who said a mechanical tweak has "freed my arm up."

"I'm starting to get life in the zone," he said, "and my breaking ball is breaking. I'm starting to see more swings and misses and foul balls. A good arm slot and a good rhythm can do a lot for you."

Meanwhile, Texas starter C.J. Wilson matched Sheets' solid outing by tossing seven innings of one-run ball. The Rangers' lefty surrendered just four hits while walking three and fanning five.

The A's left runners in scoring position in three of the 10 innings. Oakland's lone run of the game came in the fourth off Wilson, who surrendered a single to Kevin Kouzmanoff, which eventually allowed him to score on an RBI single by Donaldson.

The A's catcher, who entered the game 1-for-19 in 11 games with the team, not only notched a run-scoring hit but also garnered a handful of impressive plays behind the plate -- one that nailed the speedy Elvis Andrus out at second on an attempted steal.

"He loves to run," Donaldson said of the speedy Rangers shortstop, "so I was ready for him to go."

The out, though, represented the first and only one of the 12th frame.

"They're a good team," Bailey said. "You expect to play those kind of games. You just hope next time you're on the other side of them."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.