As for Tuesday's game, the second of a three-game series against the visiting Rangers at McAfee Coliseum, runs were again hard to come by for the hosts. The A's offense had shown signs of life of late, scoring an average of 5.5 runs per game over their previous 18, but on this night they reverted to anemic form.
Throw in a couple of untimely errors with the lack of timely hitting, and you get a 4-0 loss that snapped Texas' six-game slide.
Lefty Lenny DiNardo, promoted from his long-relief role to become Oakland's eighth different starting pitcher of the season, threw the ball well -- 5 1/3 innings, four hits, two walks, three strikeouts, one earned run -- but made one of two fielding miscues in the sixth inning, allowing the Rangers to score three unearned runs.
That was more than enough for lefty Mike Wood, who threw five shutout innings despite allowing five hits and five walks, and three Rangers relievers, who allowed four hits and a walk over the final four frames.
Oakland left the bases loaded in the first inning; left runners at the corners in the third; left runners at first and second in the fourth and fifth; wasted two hits in the seventh; and had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth before Swisher hit a one-hop rocket off Texas closer Eric Gagne that shortstop Michael Young speared to start a game-ending double play.
A's manager Bob Geren said the reality of the way his club swung the bat wasn't as ugly as the end result. At one point, he said, he and hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo started counting how many balls the A's had drilled and gotten nothing out of.
"I've never seen a game where you hit that many balls hard and get that many walks and don't score," Geren offered. "That's very unusual. At any level."
The A's, who entered the game with the third-worst team batting average (.251) in the American League, fell a game under .500 (25-26) and dropped six games behind the first-place Angels in the AL West.
"We keep hitting the ball hard like we did tonight, get some guys back, we'll be OK," Geren said. "We'll be fine."
And as injured closer Huston Street pointed out, "We were 15 games under .500 at this point two years ago. There's a lot of time."
DiNardo was cruising until the fateful sixth, which he opened by walking No. 9 hitter Matt Kata. Ian Kinsler followed with a hard bunt that looked like a double play in the making, but it turned into a mess when DiNardo muffed it, leaving runners at first and second.
"I felt I threw the ball OK until that last inning," DiNardo said, lamenting the leadoff walk in particular and suggesting he rushed on the bunt. "I didn't help myself with damage control."
The runners moved up on a wild pitch, and with one out, Geren had DiNardo intentionally walk Mark Teixeira -- a .390 hitter this year against lefties to that point -- to load the bases for Sammy Sosa, who is two homers away from 600 for his career.
Sosa didn't get No. 599, but he did drill a two-run single into left field. And when the ball got past Shannon Stewart for an error, Teixeira scored, too.
Asked why he didn't bring in Colby Lewis, who was warming up in the bullpen, for a righty-righty showdown with Sosa, Geren said liked the way DiNardo had handled Sosa earlier in the game.
"You don't walk guys to get to someone with 600 homers very often," Geren conceded. "But Lenny had struck Sammy out and gotten him to roll over into a double play in the first two at-bats. And it was a [scoreless] game to that point. It was [DiNardo's] game to win or lose at that point.
"It was the right decision. It just didn't work out tonight."
DiNardo agreed with Geren's decision, too, adding that he simply got a pitch up to Sosa at a bad time.
"He's a good hitter," DiNardo said of Sosa. "You can't expect him to make a mistake when you don't hit your spots."
Said Sosa: "In that situation ... the pressure's not on me. It's on him."
That was it for DiNardo, and Marlon Byrd's two-out single to center off Lewis scored Sosa and closed the book on DiNardo, who threw 82 pitches in his first start since last September with Boston.
"I thought DiNardo was outstanding," Geren said. "He pitched good enough to win. The offense just didn't seem to have any luck whatsoever. Nothing really fell in, right to the end of the game. Swisher hits a bullet up the middle and they make a great play.
"We hit the ball good tonight. We really did."