Duchscherer struggles against Rangers

Duchscherer struggles vs. Rangers

OAKLAND -- Whoever said good pitching beats good hitting may want to consider adding "usually" after the pitching part.

Well, maybe only when Josh Hamilton and his fellow power-hitting Rangers teammates are involved, as was the case Saturday at McAfee Coliseum when they lit up the scoreboard on the way to a 9-4 victory over the A's.

It was the second straight loss for the A's, who have given up a total of 23 runs to Texas in two games.

The day began with a guy on the mound who has represented the definition of good pitching all season long -- Justin Duchscherer, the A's All-Star right-hander who entered the affair leading the Majors with a 1.87 ERA.

The day ended with a career-high eight runs and nine hits attached to Duchscherer's name, not to mention a quiet, cold A's clubhouse. Oh, and that ERA shot up to 2.37.

"I don't know what to say, honestly," the Oakland pitcher said. "They flat out beat me."

Duchscherer had every right to be confused. After all, he entered the game not having allowed more than three earned runs in a game all season. Even more, he had allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last 11 starts, which is the longest such streak by a starter in A's history. So what gives?

Apparently the answer simply rests along the lines of nine players who can hit the ball hard.

"He threw the ball well," Kurt Suzuki said of his battery mate. "They're just tough. They're tough up and down the lineup, one to nine. They've got guys who can hit good pitches. Sometimes you have to tip your hat."

Saturday's game, though, forced A's players to raise their hats while watching home run after home run leave the stadium -- three to be exact, including a monster three-run shot by Hamilton in the fifth inning off fellow All-Star Duchscherer to expand Texas' lead to 6-2.

"I threw him my backdoor cutter," he said of the pitch that went soaring into the left-field bleachers. "That's my bread-and-butter pitch. I'd like to know what he was thinking. ... Not a lot of guys are going to hit that 450 feet."

Duchscherer (10-7) may have to ask Hamilton himself about the pitch, but the Rangers slugger did offer a few words when asked about the A's hurler.

"We saw everything but the kitchen sink ... in any count," he said. "That's the way he pitches. He doesn't overpower you, we were just patient."

According to A's manager Bob Geren, his hitters were patient as well. In fact, they struck out just twice, which prompted the start of the skipper's usual rambling of positives in the game -- despite it representing the team's ninth loss in the last 10.

"We cut down on strikeouts and hit homers," he offered, counting solo shots from Emil Brown and Mark Ellis. "I also thought we played pretty well defensively."

However, nothing on the A's side could erase Texas' offensive rampage. The Rangers got to Duchscherer early, as Chris Davis hit an RBI double and Jarrod Saltalamacchia added a two-run double in the second to post a 3-0 lead.

Oakland responded in the next inning by tallying two runs -- one earned -- off Texas starter Matt Harrison (2-1). After Carlos Gonzalez and Suzuki hit back-to-back singles, Brown loaded the bases on an error by shortstop Michael Young. Bobby Crosby brought Gonzalez in with a base hit, and Wes Bankston made it 3-2 on a sacrifice fly.

The A's mustered one more run off Harrison, a guy who had given up 13 earned runs in his last two starts. Duchscherer, on the other hand, had given up 12 earned runs in his last nine starts. The numbers make a 9-4 A's loss seem improbable, but then again, this is the same team that has watched itself move further away from the division-leading Angels quicker than a ball hit off Hamilton's bat on Saturday.

"It just seemed like today they were seeing the ball well and guessing right every time," Duchscherer said. "I felt like [me and Suzuki] didn't get in a pattern. I was going out and then would come in on them. They just had a good approach."

After each of his starts, the A's pitcher never fails to mention that he's always trying to toss deep into games. Duchscherer threw into the seventh inning, but that was the only good thing about his start.

"That's not a positive outing," he said. "I gave up eight runs and didn't give my team a chance to win."

Leave it to Geren, though, to give his pitcher a slight pat on the back.

"It just wasn't his best day," the skipper said. "He'll get right back out there his next start and pitch like the All-Star he is."

And luckily for Duchscherer, Hamilton and crew will be long gone by then.

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.