A's losing ground on second place

A's losing ground on second place

ARLINGTON -- The A's hold on second place in the American League West is slipping fast.

All because they can't beat the Texas Rangers.

The A's never led in an 8-4 loss to Texas on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. In fact, the A's haven't had a lead in the first two games of this three-game series.

The A's have lost four of five games so far in Texas, and they are 2-6 against the Rangers this season.

The A's are just a half-game ahead of the surging Rangers in the American League West with Sunday afternoon's game to decide who has second place with the calendar turning to June.

"Texas is playing very well the last month," A's manager Bob Geren said. "They've won a lot of series."

Except for a 12-6 victory here on May 11, the A's haven't been able to produce runs against the Rangers. Oakland has managed 10 runs in the four losses.

There were some positive signs Saturday. Eric Chavez, playing in his third game since coming back from back surgery, had three hits. He is 4-for-12 since coming off the disabled list. He also handled all three of his chances at third base.

"I'm seeing the ball well," said Chavez, who will be the A's designated hitter on Sunday.

The A's also can feel good about Travis Buck getting two hits and driving in two runs in his second game back from Triple-A Sacramento. Buck was moved to the seventh spot in the lineup after going 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot in Friday's 3-1 loss.

There also were some frustrations. The A's haven't drawn a walk in 18 innings, almost a shocking statistic considering the Rangers have gone consecutive games without a walk three times since 2002.

It's also stunning if you consider the A's lead the league with 217 walks. But they didn't draw one Saturday against Sidney Ponson and Friday against Kevin Millwood or any of the Rangers' relievers.

"Ponson was pounding the strike zone well," said designated hitter Jack Cust, who leads the AL with 41 walks. "Millwood did the same thing [Friday]. I thought the zone was tighter [Saturday] and Ponson was still hitting his spots. He was keeping guys off balance."

The A's did have 11 hits Saturday, but nine of them were singles. They scored three runs in the top of the fifth on five singles to tie the game at 3-3, including the two-run single by Buck.

But starter Joe Blanton gave the lead right back in the bottom of the fifth. He allowed a leadoff double to Ian Kinsler, a run-scoring single to Michael Young and a two-run home run to the AL's hottest hitter, Josh Hamilton.

Blanton had pitched well in three road starts, but he allowed three early runs -- he had a 2.85 ERA in the first five innings coming into Saturday's game. He got unlucky in the first inning when Young's fly ball to right field eluded Buck for a triple. Young scored on Hamilton's groundout.

Blanton gave up four singles in the second inning, one by A's killer Brandon Boggs and another by Kinsler.

The A's scratched out a run in the seventh to make it 6-4 on Jack Hannahan's double, but they left the tying runs on base in the top of the eighth.

"It seems like when we come here we're flat," Cust said. "I don't what it is. We go out and make outs and keep making outs. They get ahead and it's tough."

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