Eveland's quality start not enough

Eveland's quality start not enough

ARLINGTON -- The A's have run into some rare hot pitching from division-rival Texas this weekend.

But that doesn't completely excuse their slumping offense, even if the A's snapped the Rangers' three-game shutout streak on Saturday night.

The A's lack of power and sudden absence of clutch hitting hurt them again in a 6-4 loss to Texas at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The A's haven't hit a home run in the two games here in Texas and have just 20 long balls for the season. The A's came into this series leading the Majors with a .311 batting average with runners in scoring position. But they are 2-for-16 in that situation so far in two games, including 2-for-10 on Saturday night, with one of those hits Frank Thomas' two-run ninth-inning double to cut a four-run lead in half.

The A's, who stayed in a first-place tie with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim despite dropping to 1-4 against the Rangers, must take advantage of scoring chances. "That's going to be a problem if we don't," shortstop Bobby Crosby said. "If we're not going to hit home runs, we've got to be able to do that [hit with runners in scoring position].

"If we're not going to hit the three-run homer, then we need to get guys in from third base with one out and get guys in from second base with two outs or we're not going to be successful."

What magnified the wasted chances on Saturday was the A's offense seemed to be gifted a huge break. Rangers' ace Kevin Millwood had to be removed from the game after facing three hitters because of a mild right groin strain, forcing Texas to use its bullpen for 8 1/3 innings.

Advantage A's, right? "When they have to ride the bullpen the whole game, you would think that would put you in a good position," Crosby said.

It didn't work out that way. The A's managed just six hits in the first eight innings, and never really threatened, even with Thomas coming through with two outs in the top of the ninth to cut the lead to 6-4.

The A's had their most clutch hitter this season, right fielder Emil Brown, up next batting as the tying run. But he popped out weakly to second base to end the game, continuing a trend that is turning around on Oakland.

"We've been one of the top teams with runners in scoring position, and that's why we've achieved what we have so far," A's manager Bob Geren said. "We didn't get it tonight. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to get the big hit." Just like Friday, the A's struggled early with good scoring chances. They were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position against the Rangers' bullpen from the second to the fourth inning. As Crosby pointed out, they failed to get a runner in from third with one out in the second and fourth innings, both times trailing by a run.

The A's had the bases loaded with one out in the second inning down 1-0 and seemed to have Rangers' reliever Josh Rupe teetering, after walks to Mark Ellis and Jack Hannahan. But center fielder Ryan Sweeney grounded into a double play to end the threat.

In the third, Jack Cust had a two-out double and Thomas was drilled in the side by Rupe to start another rally. Then Cust actually scored on Brown's single and subsequent throwing error by Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler to tie the game at 1-1 and snap the Rangers' pitching staff's scoreless streak at 33 innings.

But with runners at second and third, Crosby flew out to left to leave the score tied at 1.

Then in the fourth the A's had a chance to answer Milton Bradley's two-run homer off Eveland in the bottom of third. Ellis started with a single, Hannahan added a double and Sweeny cut the Rangers' lead to 3-2 with a sacrifice fly to right field.

But Kurt Suzuki and Daric Barton each grounded out with the tying run at third base.

"After we get a couple of walks, all of the sudden they make a great pitch," Geren said. "It usually doesn't happen like that." The A's failed to take advantage of another quality start from Eveland, whose only fault was he couldn't get out the one hitter he went into the game knowing he had to get out -- Bradley. Bradley had a two-out double in the bottom of the first to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. And he had another two-out hit, this one a two-run home run to straight away center field to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the third. "I made two mistakes to the guy I knew I couldn't make a mistake too," Eveland said.

Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.