A's below .500 for first time since April 6

Athletics fall below .500 mark

OAKLAND -- If anything, says Huston Street, the looming Trade Deadline has provided a slice of "entertainment" for him.

"Maybe at first it spiked my curiosity," said the A's closer, who has been at the center of Oakland's rumor mill concerning Thursday's deadline. "But as far as distractions go, I feel baseball was the place I could go to get away from that. That's the one thing I'm sure of. I know how to play baseball."

And while it's true the whirlwind of A's trade rumors has died down considerably during the past few days, suggesting general manager Billy Beane may be done dealing (for the time being), Oakland could sure use a torrent on the field rather than off.

No fancy-schmancy plays or back-to-back grand slams needed. Just a win would be nice -- especially following Wednesday's 4-3 loss to Kansas City that left the A's on the losing end of a three-game sweep and their 10th loss in the last 12 games.

The 10-inning affair, which ended when trade prospect Street surrendered an RBI sacrifice fly, also put Oakland under the .500 mark for the first time since April 6, when it was 3-4. To top it off, the A's not-so-glamorous 2-10 record since the All-Star break gets the nod for worst mark in the Majors.

"It's frustrating, especially with as good of a first half as we put together," Street offered. "We know we're a lot better than the way we've been playing, and we know what we're capable of doing."

Before the break, Oakland was capable of scoring runs -- not a ton, but enough to stick with the dominant first-place Angels. However, the A's finished the month of July with the fewest runs scored and the lowest on-base percentage in the American League and now aren't even within hailing distance of the Halos.

Oakland managed just two runs off Kansas City in each of the first two games of the series and squeaked by with three on Wednesday, but the A's also left a glaring 15 runners on base, which ties a season high.

"It was a good offensive day," manager Bob Geren said. "We did a lot of good things at the plate ... we just didn't get a big hit and left a lot of guys on."

The A's appeared to have put their offensive woes away early in the game by getting ahead 2-0 in the second inning thanks to RBI singles off the bats of Bobby Crosby and Ryan Sweeney. The lead lasted slightly longer than five minutes, though, as the Royals posted two of their own runs off starter Sean Gallagher in the third.

After Kansas City made it a 3-2 game in the sixth, Gallagher was replaced by the non-human-like side-arming creature also known as Brad Ziegler. The right-hander tossed three innings of scoreless ball to increase his career-opening scoreless streak to 30 innings, a modern Major League record.

"The job Ziegler did," Geren said while shaking his head, "I can't praise him enough."

Ziegler scattered just two hits and a walk in the midst of ending each of his three innings with double plays, setting Street up for the final innings while hoping to provide his team with somewhat of an offensive boost -- key word being hoping.

After notching a painless ninth inning, Street opened the 10th by walking the first batter before allowing a double to Mike Aviles. After the A's closer got Mitch Maier to pop one out in foul territory, Street intentionally walked Alex Gordon while hoping to get the next batter to ground into a double play -- key word, again, being hoping.

What followed was a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jose Guillen to pull the Royals ahead and hand Street his fourth loss of the season.

"I tried to bounce it," the pitcher said. "It is what it is, and I can't take it back. I just have to move on.

"It was kind of a [poor] series for all of us. ... This next month will be a good chance for us to turn it around, especially with an off-day leading into the new month. We can take a big, deep breath and turn it around."

Some would say the A's need more than a good breathing session to turn their current slump around. Then again, maybe the notion's not that crazy after all with a handful of young rookies in tow.

"The main thing is we gotta relax and have fun," Crosby explained. "I think a lot of guys are pressing and trying to do too much. But if we just relax, that's when the runs are going to come."

Oakland will have no choice but to test that method on the road, as the team enters a nine-game road trip through Boston, Toronto and Detroit beginning Friday. The A's will be without a couple of said young fellows, though, as the club optioned Wes Bankston and Eric Patterson to Triple-A Sacramento immediately following Wednesday's loss.

The open roster spots leaves plenty of room for Frank Thomas, whom the A's have been longing for since the Big Hurt went on the disabled list May 29 with right quadriceps tendinitis. So if a couple of yoga sessions don't do the trick, maybe big boy Frank will?

"When you put Frank Thomas in any lineup," Crosby said, "it's going to make a difference. Hopefully, that will give us a boost."

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