Twin killing: A's lose, Loaiza hurt

Injured Loaiza departs A's loss to Angels

OAKLAND --­ Bases loaded, nobody out and the heart of the order coming up is an ideal situation for any offense --­ any offense, that is, except for Oakland's lately.

Oakland managed just one run out of that setting in the fourth inning Sunday, and went on to lose, 4-3, to the Angels.

It was the A's ninth loss in the last 12 games, and gave the Angels two wins in the three-game series at McAfee Coliseum.

After going hitless through the first three innings against Angels starter Kelvim Escobar (3-1), Oakland, down 3-0, loaded the bases on three straight singles to open the fourth.

Designated hitter Frank Thomas then swung at the first pitch and fouled out with a popup near the first-base dugout. Milton Bradley next worked a walk to bring one run across and Adam Melhuse to the plate.

On a 2-0 count, Melhuse hit a sharp grounder over the mound that looked as if was heading for center field, but Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy had other plans.

"I took a step up the middle a little more," said Kennedy. "I was trying to stay close to the bag and get a double play. It worked out for us."

His double-play partner, shortstop Orlando Cabrera, was much less serene.

"I'm speechless, wow, unbelievable," Cabrera said. "He covered a lot of ground. I didn't think he'd be able to make it, but he got it done."

To make the play, Kennedy had to dive to his right to corral the ball, then flipped it to Cabrera.

Asked if he thought the ball would get through, Melhuse said, "I did when I hit it, because I hit it pretty well. When I saw him come up with it I just tried to run as fast as I can."

But with a catcher's speed, that wasn't fast enough, as Cabrera took the toss and turned the double play, throwing out Melhuse with a step to spare.

"That ended up being the play of the game," A's manager Ken Macha said. "If that single gets through, we score at least two runs with the opportunity to score a lot more.

"Kennedy has, if not the best, close to the best range in the game. I was hoping it would go through, but hope doesn't get it done."

Neither did A's starter Esteban Loaiza, who was forced to leave after just 3 2/3 innings with what the A's described as "spasms in his left trapezius," a muscle linking the shoulder to the neck.

Loaiza said he first started feeling the muscle tighten while he was warming up about 45 minutes before the first pitch.

"I wanted to go out and pitch," said Loaiza, who tried to battle through his discomfort. "I wasn't able to get my arm up and bear down on my pitches."

"He never did get loose in the bullpen, so I was wondering how it would go," Melhuse said. "His location was good, but his velocity wasn't there."

Loaiza's velocity was nothing close to what he showed in his previous start, a no-decision against the Tigers in which his fastball routinely was up in the high 80s, and topped out a couple of times at 91.

Sunday against the Angels, he was stuck in the low 80s.

So even though Loaiza said his shoulder was feeling looser as the game wore on, Macha pulled his starter after three straight two-out singles in the third.

"I didn't want it to get any worse and affect his next start," Macha said.

Loaiza said he couldn¹t argue with that logic, and is confident he'll be able to take his next turn Saturday in Kansas City.

"I want to show fans I can go seven innings and throw 90 mph," he said.

Perhaps by then, the A's will have solved their hitting woes. While they were struggling to get anything going against starter Kelvim Escobar, the Angels managed to push across a run in four of the first five innings.

Vladimir Guerrero drove in three of those with a first-inning ground out, a third-inning double and, in the fifth, his fourth home run this year.

The A's were able to make it close with solo home runs by Nick Swisher in the sixth inning and Bradley leading off the seventh.

That raised some hopes when Eric Chavez, representing the potential tying run, walked to lead off the ninth against closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Chavez tagged and went to second when Thomas hit a deep fly to center, but stayed there while Bradley hit a soft liner to third and Melhuse, after hitting a long, loud foul down the right-field line, struck out looking to end the game.

After that final out, someone in the A's dugout flung a box of sunflower seeds from the dugout onto the field, presumably in frustration.

"You call it frustration, we say fire," Macha said. "And that's good, to see a little fire coming out of the dugout."

Swisher said that while a little fire couldn't hurt, the team is not overwhelmed by poor results of late.

"You can't get down on yourself," he said. "What have we played, 19 games? We've got 140 more of these bad boys."

Then, noting both losses to a very good Angels team were by just one run, Swisher added, "If we keep doing what we're doing, the breaks will start coming our way."

Tony Kuttner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.