Not exactly a ground-breaking strategy for success, of course, and Geren knows it. But it is a fine place to start, and Geren's point was underscored in Oakland's 8-6 loss in the second game of a three-game series.
A's starter Chad Gaudin gave up a three-run homer in the fourth inning and walked the leadoff man during Texas' four-run sixth. And after Shannon Stewart hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth to pull the A's within a run of the lead, Santiago Casilla issued a leadoff walk in the bottom of the frame that helped the Rangers score a huge insurance run.
Also painful for Oakland was allowing the leadoff man to reach base. It happened in each of Texas' three scoring innings.
"You always want to get that first guy," Geren said. "Then if someone gets on, you always feel like you're one pitch away from getting out of the inning."
During Gaudin's current five-game losing streak, one pitch has often been his undoing after three or four strong innings to open the game, and that was the case again Tuesday.
After Donnie Murphy's RBI single in the top of the fourth gave the A's a 1-0 lead, Gaudin gave up a three-run homer to Marlon Byrd in the Texas half of the inning.
"The big inning, it's not so much a big inning, but a big hit -- a bad pitch," Gaudin said.
Mark Ellis hit his 15th home run of the year in the sixth, a two-run shot to left off of Texas rookie Kason Gabbard (5-1) that tied the game at 3, but again Texas answered in short order.
Gaudin walked Nelson Cruz to open the bottom of the inning, Jason Botts followed with a single, and after Jarrod Saltalamacchia's long double to center snapped the deadlock, Gerald Laird chased Gaudin (8-8) with a two-run double to deep left.
Ramon Vazquez sacrificed Laird to third, and Frank Catalanotto's double off Ruddy Lugo made it 7-3, leaving Gaudin with a line of seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks and a hit batter over five-plus innings. He struck out seven.
"He's definitely pitched better than five straight [losses]," Geren said. "It seems like one pitch here and there has been costing him."
Gabbard left after the sixth, having allowed three runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts, and the A's loaded the bases with nobody out against Wes Littleton in the top of the seventh. But Texas setup man Frank Francisco came on to get Jack Cust on a shallow fly ball to left before striking out Mike Piazza and getting Ellis to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
Oakland got back at Francisco in the eighth, however, when Murphy doubled with two out and scored on a single by Kurt Suzuki before Stewart's ninth home run of the year.
"We had some nice at-bats and kept battling," Geren said. "I liked the way we swung the bats. Eleven hits and six runs is good enough for a 'W' on most nights."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.