No matter how you cut it, Cahill was the American League's most unhittable starter this season. Keyword: was.
In an unprecedented display, Cahill gave up seven earned runs on 12 hits to the Rangers on Sunday, as the A's fell, 16-9, in their final home game of the year.
"Nothing was really working for me," Cahill said. "I thought I made some good pitches and they hit those. Then I made some mistakes and they hit those. Can't really do anything about it, it was just one of those days."
For Cahill, who entered the game with the AL's best batting average against (.210), the 12 hits represented a career high. It was only the second time in 61 starts he gave up double-digit hits. Still, not even such a letdown could mar Cahill's brilliance in Oakland this year, where he went 11-3 with a 2.17 ERA in 15 starts.
From the first inning, Cahill struggled to find any consistency. He surrendered at least three hits in each of the first three frames and gave up a run in each of the four he finished. He is now 17-8 with a 3.08 ERA.
Cahill has thrown 197 1/3 innings between Oakland and Triple-A Sacramento this season, up from the 178 2/3 he recorded as a rookie last year. But Cahill said he wouldn't use the workload as an excuse.
"I think everybody's feeling a little tired," Cahill said. "Everybody's a little worn out from the long schedule, but I don't think you can point your finger at just that. Just one of those days where I just didn't have my stuff."
Of the dozen base knocks Texas racked up, 10 were singles and two were home runs. The first home run, a two-run shot by Mitch Moreland in the third inning, gave Texas a commanding 5-0 lead. The second dinger, a blast served up to Jeff Francoeur to lead off the fourth, put Texas ahead by seven.
"It was a lineup he hasn't faced all year," Texas starter Colby Lewis said. "It probably took him by surprise. It's late in the season and he's got a lot of innings. I don't know if that contributed to today. But for our guys to step up and play like that, it shows what kind of team we are."
If it sounds like Lewis is familiar with Cahill, he is. The two right-handers squared off five times this season, with the A's emerging victorious on four occasions. Lewis tossed six effective innings of one-run ball to finally defeat the A's.
Vin Mazzaro relieved Cahill in the fifth, giving up a pair of runs in four innings of work. Then the A's made things interesting in their half of the eighth.
Propelled by Steve Tolleson's first career home run, a three-run shot to left field, the A's rattled off a six-run, two-out rally to make the score 9-7.
"It's an exciting time," Tolleson said. "I think any player would tell you the first time they hit a home run in the Major Leagues is exciting, no matter what part of the game. The good thing is it got us back in the game for a little while. Unfortunately, we didn't hold it, but that's the way it goes sometimes."
Tolleson said he didn't know if the ball was gone once it left his bat. Tolleson said the fan who grabbed his ball didn't want to give it back, even though Tolleson sent the fan a signed bat.
"It's unfortunate, but hopefully that won't be the last one," Tolleson said.
But Texas wasn't to be outdone, returning the favor with seven runs in the top of the ninth to take a 16-7 lead. The game turned out to be a historically bad one for the A's, as the 22 hits allowed tied an Oakland record for a nine-inning game.
With the stinging defeat, the A's bid farewell to the Oakland Coliseum until next season. Whether the 2011 A's will still feature Mark Ellis is unknown. In a ceremonial gesture, A's manager Bob Geren pulled Ellis from the game after he took ground balls before the seventh inning. Ellis left to a hearty ovation from the Oakland faithful.
"It was a little embarrassing," Ellis said. "But it was nice of Bob to do that."
Ellis, 33, has played all eight of his big league seasons in Oakland, which holds a $6-million club option for him next year. Ellis said he would be meeting with the A's to discuss his future shortly after the season, but that he has no expectations yet.
"I'm just going to listen to hear what they say," Ellis said. "It's really not up to me."
Given the rise of young middle-infield talent in the organization this year, including players like Tolleson and Eric Sogard, Ellis could be deemed expendable. Ellis admitted he got a bit nostalgic while playing possibly his final home game in Oakland.
"A little bit," Ellis said. "It's a little bit sad. There have been some really good times on this field."
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.