"Offensively, again, it was a bit of a struggle," A's manager Bob Geren said. "The guys are pressing and trying to get the big hit to get us over this thing."
"That's the case," outfielder Shannon Stewart agreed. "Instead of doing what we normally do, we get out of our zone and everybody starts pressing a little bit trying to make something happen."
What makes it worse is that the most recent offensive shortcoming comes against the American League West's worst team.
This time, the A's offensive woes came against Rangers righty Jamey Wright, who came into the game with a 2-2 record and a 4.94 ERA to go with a career record of 69-100 and a 5.14 ERA lifetime.
Wright pitched seven scoreless innings and worked out of three jams to keep the A's off the board.
Once buried in the division, the Rangers have now closed to within 3 1/2 games of sending the A's into the cellar.
On June 13, the Rangers were 12 1/2 games behind the third-place A's, who were then only five behind the front-running Angels.
The Rangers have gone 17-11 since that day, while the A's have gone 9-20. Both teams trailed the Angels by double-figure games after Monday night.
"Right now, we have more guys than not struggling," Geren said. "They just have to put up a good swing on the ball and let the results fall as they will. [Hitters need to] think about the approach, not the results."
Dallas Braden started for the first time since May 17 against the Royals, when he gave up five earned over 5 1/3 innings. In his previous three starts, he allowed 13 earned in 13 2/3 innings.
Monday night, he matched Wright with zeros for the first 3 2/3 innings, but with two outs in the fourth, he ran into some trouble.
With Sammy Sosa and Gerald Laird on base, Jerry Hairston fouled off seven consecutive two-strike pitches and eventually took the 12th pitch of the at-bat and hit it off the left-field wall.
"The fastball he hit was up and in," Braden said. "He was able to pull his hands through. It was a battle."
Sosa scored easily and Bobby Crosby's relay throw to the plate nearly nailed Laird, but home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that catcher Kurt Suzuki did not tag Laird on the arm before he touched home safely.
Marlon Byrd doubled home two more runs in the fifth as Braden wound up lasting six innings, giving up the four runs and striking out seven.
"I really thought he did a nice job," Geren said. "He really located his fastball a lot better. I was pretty impressed with his outing."
"All in all, it's a building block," Braden said.
The A's offensively got a double from Travis Buck in the first and another from Mark Ellis in the second. Buck wound up getting to third with one out, but the A's couldn't get him home.
Oakland threatened again in the sixth, when Kurt Suzuki and Buck started the inning off with walks, but two ground balls later, the inning was over and the threat was erased.
The A's continued to struggle with runners on, threatening again in the seventh when Jack Cust singled and Crosby walked. The two wound up on second and third with one out, but a popup and a strikeout later, and another inning passed with no runs crossing the plate.
"It doesn't seem like anything we do is working for us," Stewart said. "We haven't been scoring and the bottom line is we need to do something offensively. We just can't get it going right now."
In the truest sense of "too little, too late," the A's brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but couldn't deliver the big blow as Rangers closer Eric Gagne struck out Suzuki to end the game.
"Things will turn around because we have a lot of good hitters on this team," Geren said.
The A's got on the scoreboard with one run when Marco Scutaro singled with two outs in the ninth plating Cust, who had walked.