Five-run fourth dooms A's in defeat

Five-run fourth dooms A's in defeat

OAKLAND -- In the top of the fourth inning Friday, with runners at second and third with one out, two Rangers runs already in and an All-Star at the plate and an All-World on deck, A's rookie right-hander Sean Gallagher looked like a man in desperate need of a diversion.

And just like that, a cat showed up in front of the home dugout.

Play was stopped as the feline embarked on a frenetic, zig-zagging journey behind home plate before disappearing near the photographers' well on the far side of the visitors' dugout.

The cat wasn't black, but it sure wasn't lucky. The diversion didn't help at all, and two batters later the five-run lead the A's had staked Gallagher in the bottom of the third was gone.

Michael Young stepped back into the batter's box and hit a sacrifice fly, and Josh Hamilton of Home Run Derby fame followed with a game-tying line drive over the wall.

Texas pushed across the go-ahead run in the seventh and blew the game open with an eight-run ninth on the way to a 14-6 victory in the opener of a three-game series.

And with that the A's, who trailed the division-leading Angels by 3 1/2 games as recently as July 1, fell 11 games out of first place and a half-game behind the Rangers, into third place in the American League West.

"Obviously, it was an ugly finish," said Oakland manager Bob Geren.

The A's, who had Thursday to lick their wounds after returning from an ugly 1-5 road trip on which they scored a total of eight runs in the five losses, appeared on their way to a happy homestand opener when they rallied for five runs in the bottom of the third against Rangers starter Vicente Padilla.

Ryan Sweeney got things going with a double and caught a huge break when Young bobbled a ground ball by Kurt Suzuki. Sweeney had broken for third on contact and would have been out by several feet had Young made the play cleanly, but instead, Suzuki was generously awarded an infield single and the A's had runners at the corners.

A walk to Jack Cust loaded the bases, and a one-out bloop single down the left-field line by Carlos Gonzalez opened the scoring -- and the floodgates. Bobby Crosby drew a two-out walk to make it 2-0, Jack Hannahan followed with a two-run single, and Brooks Conrad promptly singled for the first hit and RBI of his big league career.

Sweeney then got his second hit of the inning, but Hannahan was gunned down at the plate by left fielder David Murphy.

"You feel pretty good when you get five runs early against a solid veteran like Padilla," Geren said. "Usually, with our pitching staff, that's going to get you a win."

The big lead didn't last long, though, as the Rangers countered with a five-spot of their own in the top of the fourth.

After an error by third baseman Conrad, Gallagher gave up a homer to Murphy, and after a single by Chris Davis, a walk to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a sacrifice bunt by Ian Kinsler, Young's sacrifice fly cut Oakland's lead to two runs.

Hamilton followed his 23rd homer of the year, boosting his MLB-high RBI total to 100.

"He went through the lineup a couple of times, but we didn't change our approach," Hamilton said. "We just hit the ball hard. One guy hits, another guy hits and it starts a chain reaction. We feed off each other, and we've been doing it all season."

"I just left way too many balls up in the zone," said a disgusted Gallagher, who noted that Hamilton's home run came off a hanging curveball. "When the offense gives me a lead like that, I have to hold it. ... I felt like I kind of let them down."

Texas took the lead in the seventh when Chris Davis doubled off lefty rookie Jerry Blevins and scored when rookie righty Brad Ziegler gave up a two-out single by Ian Kinsler. The run was not charged to Ziegler, who worked a shutout eighth to tie the Major League record of 25 consecutive scoreless innings set by Philadelphia's George McQuillan in 1907.

And yes, Ziegler acknowledged that tying the record was bittersweet.

"I hate giving up inherited runners," Ziegler said. "It was really frustrating."

The Rangers blew the game open with eight runs in the ninth, starting with Murphy's second homer, a two-run shot lefty Alan Embree, who was charged with four runs in one-third of an inning. Righty Andrew Brown gave up the other four before Conrad added his second career hit in the bottom of the frame to close the scoring.

"We know they have a great pitching staff and anybody they run out there is a good pitcher," Young said. "But we're a confident team in our ability to put runs on the board. We know that if we stick to our approach, we'll score runs."

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