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A's offense stuck in neutral vs. Rays

A's offense stuck in neutral vs. Rays

OAKLAND -- Eric Patterson has only played four games with the A's, but he's already familiar with the club's favorite tune.

Unfortunately, it's not the blaring Metallica music played after every Oakland win. Nor is it the strange jungle tune that pours out of McAfee Coliseum's speakers during the late innings as part of a rally effort that includes a dancing elephant. Forget catchy beats. Think overly popular postgame phrases.

"Sometimes, you've just got to tip your cap to the other team."

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Yes, it's that tune -- the one that comes out of a different Oakland player's mouth after just about every defeat. And on Wednesday it was rookie Patterson's turn to bust out the cliche following the A's 3-2 loss to the visiting Rays.

And as tiring as those words have become, there's really not much left to say when your team just lost its 22nd of its last 26 games -- even on a night when your club also made history. By scoring two runs, Oakland has now scored four runs or fewer in each of its last 15 games, the longest streak in franchise history.

After hearing the numbers, manager Bob Geren could only shake his head.

"It's difficult to win when you're not getting runs," he said, "but our hitters are working hard every day."

That much has been said during Oakland's recent offensive slump, but the results are leaving A's fans shaking their own heads. Wednesday night's game was more of the same, as Oakland could only manage seven hits.

The only A's player that walked away with an RBI was Patterson, who tallied two in the fifth inning after knocking in his first hit withe the Athletics -- a single off Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine that scored Bobby Crosby and Jack Hannahan. The base hit made it a 2-2 game, as the Rays had already received homers from Carlos Pena and Eric Hinske in the early innings.

"It definitely feels good to get out and contribute," Patterson said. "It would've felt better if we could have come back and win the game, though."

Oakland dropped its 19th one-run game of the season despite a solid pitching performance from All-Star Justin Duchscherer, who gave up three runs on six hits while walking one and striking out a career-high eight through 6 1/3 frames.

Asked if he felt collected after giving up the first- and second-inning dingers, Duchscherer simply said, "I was collected when they hit them. Sometimes they just beat you."

It was what Geren called "some bad luck" that led to Tampa Bay's final and decisive run of the game. After Hinske led off the seventh with a single, Gabe Gross reached base on a single that took a bad hop in front of third baseman Cliff Pennington and allowed Hinske to second. The "unfortunate bounce," as Duchscherer tagged it, proved costly, as Ben Zobrist doubled with one out against reliever Jerry Blevins to bring in the go-ahead run.

"You think about what he did," Geren said of Duchscherer, "it was good enough to win. The pitching was very good, we just came up short."

The A's did have their chances, though, and the skipper was the first to admit so. With Kurt Suzuki at second base and no outs in the third inning, Patterson struck out and Pennington recorded the second out with a popout before Mark Ellis lined a single to left field. However, there was catcher Dioner Navarro sitting at the plate, ball in hand, waiting to tag out Suzuki.

In the seventh, the A's again had their opportunities with a runner in scoring position and just one out, but the score remained the same by inning's end. And by game's end, Duchscherer was left with his third straight loss, a streak which equals the longest of his career.

"I can only control what I do on the mound," the A's pitcher said. "Earlier this year, they were giving me a ton of runs. It's just the way baseball goes sometimes."

It may be the way baseball goes, but it's beginning to define the A's second half. The team has won just four games since the All-Star break and is a season-high 20 games behind the Angels in the American League West for the fourth consecutive day. That mark represents the A's largest deficit in the West since Aug. 25, 2001, when they were 20 games behind Seattle.

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

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