Gonzalez collects two hits, but A's fall

Gonzalez collects two hits, but A's fall

ARLINGTON -- As debuts go, Carlos Gonzalez's first Major League game was almost perfect.

He had hits in first two at-bats. He tracked down a couple of fly balls in the treacherous center field at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. He didn't even fall for injured teammate Mike Sweeney's trickery -- the veteran tried to dupe Gonzalez by throwing a ball in the stands, making it look like he had handed over the ball to a fan from Gonzalez's first hit.

But it was the spectacular play Gonzalez nearly made, but didn't, that provided a key run in Texas' 3-1 victory over the A's on Friday night.

Playing deep, Gonzalez raced in on a blooper by Rangers left fielder Brandon Boggs in the fourth inning that seemed to stay up forever in the swirling wind. Gonzalez dived at the last second and the ball just kicked away off the edge of his glove, allowing Michael Young to score from second base to give the Rangers an early 1-0 advantage.

"I came really close," said Gonzalez, who ended the game 2-for-3 with the A's only RBI. "The wind was a little bit weird tonight. I did everything I could to try to make that catch."

Gonzalez, 22, may be the spark the A's need. Oakland has won just seven of its past 19 games -- and that includes a five-game winning streak. If the A's don't win the last two games of this series against the Rangers, they will have lost six of their past seven series.

Gonzalez, considered the A's top prospect by Baseball America, made an impression in his first at-bat, going to the opposite field for a leadoff double off veteran starter Kevin Millwood.

"I was looking for a good pitch to hit," Gonzalez said. "I got an outside pitch, I used my hands and I got it. Michael Young and the guys congratulated me. It was something I'll never forget."

Gonzalez tied the score at 1 in his second at-bat in the fifth. He ripped a double, this time into the right-field corner, to score Mark Ellis, who started the inning with a double.

Gonzalez immediately improves the A's outfield defense. In the A's 12-0 loss to Toronto on Thursday, Jack Cust dropped a routine fly ball in the ninth inning.

Gonzalez looked smooth and in control Friday night, even on the fly ball he didn't get to in the fourth.

"I didn't think he was going to get there," A's starter Justin Duchscherer said. "He made a great effort."

So did Duchscherer, who continues to keep his team in games. Duchscherer didn't toy with a no-hitter like last week against Boston, but he was still very good, allowing two runs in six innings.

Duchscherer has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts. He has not allowed more than three earned runs. His 2.27 ERA is still among the best in the American League.

Duchscherer did give up the lead in the sixth. Josh Hamilton, this week's "Sports Illustrated" cover boy, led off with a double. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Boggs, who accounted for all three of the Rangers' RBIs.

Still, to give up only two runs and lose at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark, even Duchscherer admitted that's tough.

"You usually feel that way," Duchscherer said of doing enough to win. "But Millwood came out and threw well. They're a tough ballclub."

That deserves to be repeated. The A's are 2-5 against the Rangers, including 1-3 in Arlington. The A's are 6-10 against the AL West, compared to 23-16 against the rest of baseball.

For a team that started the day 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Angels, and with 41 games still left vs. the AL West, the A's need to turn around their play within the division.

"We've pitched well so far [in the division]," Duchscherer said. "Every time we've played against these teams we've played close games. It's not like we've been blown out. These are games we need to win."

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