Four errors cost A's, Blanton in opener

Four errors cost Athletics in opener

OAKLAND -- Every year, it seems, the A's have one starting pitcher who can't seem to catch a break.

He's the guy who shatters bats, only to see the jam-shots land safely in the outfield. He's the guy who gives up 12-hoppers that somehow find an infield hole. Bloopers find chalk, take odd kicks off the line and end up as stand-up doubles.

When he holds the other team to two runs, he gets one run of support. When he hands a late lead to the bullpen, the lead gets blown.

So far this season, he's Joe Blanton, and Friday's opener of a three-game series brought into the fold yet another method of victory denial.

The A's, who entered the series with the second-worst fielding percentage (.980) in the American League, behind only Texas, was by far the worst-fielding team on the field in a 4-3 loss to the AL West cellar-dwellers.

Oakland increased its errors total through 31 games to 27 with a season-high four, costing Blanton two unearned runs and dropping the big right-hander, who gave up seven hits and walked one over seven innings, to 2-5 on the season.

"Joe deserved a better fate tonight," said A's manager Bob Geren, who was as harsh as he's ever been in assessing his team's effort after a 25-minute postgame meeting in his office with general manager Billy Beane.

"It was just a poor night all the way around, very sloppy," said Geren, whose club remained tied with the Angels atop the AL West standings despite the loss. "We've been playing some good baseball [games], and tonight was not one of them."

Interestingly, the A's turned in the defensive stinker in front of their former longtime defensive guru, Texas manager Ron Washington.

"They usually take care of the baseball better than that," said Washington, whose previously struggling club has won three consecutive games for the first time this season. "It happens to everybody."

It frequently happens to the Rangers, who lead the AL with 31 errors, and that made for some irony: The A's were prevented from taking Blanton off the hook when Texas came up with some defensive magic in the seventh.

With Oakland down a run and Daric Barton, who had singled, at first base with one out, Jack Cust, who had homered for the second game in a row earlier in the night, launched a drive to right-center that looked and sounded off the bat like another homer.

Thanks to the infamously heavy night air at McAfee Coliseum, what Cust thought was going to be dramatic go-ahead circuit shot turned into a dramatic circus catch by center fielder Josh Hamilton, who ran it down just before crashing into the wall.

Barton, who had been running all the way, was at third base when the relay thrown from the outfield arrived at first base to complete the double play.

"Yeah, I killed that ball," Cust said with a shake of his head. "But I've come to realize not every ball you kill goes out at McAfee. I thought it was a home run. Then I thought it was a double.

"Then it was neither."

The ugliness started early for the A's. Right fielder Emil Brown dropped a first-inning fly ball of the bat of leadoff man Ian Kinsler with center fielder Ryan Sweeney also in close pursuit of the ball. Kinsler raced to third base on the play and scored moments later on a sacrifice fly by Michael Young.

"It was pretty much miscommunication," Sweeney said. "Emil called for it, but he told me he saw me coming out of the corner of his eye and thought I was going to run into him."

Texas made it 2-0 in the top of the fourth when former A's outfielder Milton Bradley (3-for-4), who had singled with one out and reached third on a single by David Murphy, scored on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Boggs.

Cust's homer and a two-run double by Bobby Crosby in the bottom of the frame gave Oakland the lead, but Texas took the lead back with two runs in the fifth, the second one scoring with two outs after first baseman Barton made an ill-advised and wild throw to third base.

Blanton blamed himself, saying he should have gotten out of the inning quicker, but Geren absolved his star-crossed ace.

"Joe pitched well enough to win," said the skipper. "He's our No. 1 guy, and he pitched like it. ... No doubt, this was our worst performance of the year."

Mychael Urban is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.