Bullpen falters against Rangers

Bullpen falters against Rangers

ARLINGTON -- A night after playing the hero, Alan Embree was wearing goat horns.

The veteran lefty didn't really deserve to be wearing them, but he wore them nonetheless.

"He got a couple of bad breaks," A's manager Bob Geren said of Embree, who was Oakland's winning pitcher Monday night and the losing pitcher Tuesday. "Really bad breaks."

Entrusted with a one-run lead when he entered Tuesday's game in the bottom of the seventh inning, Embree quickly dispatched Rangers All-Stars Michael Young and Josh Hamilton. But Milton Bradley followed with a broken-bat single, and after Bradley stole second base, Marlon Byrd hit a broken-bat single to tie the game.

The next batter, Hank Blalock, untied it with a laser shot into the right-field bleachers, and host Texas hung on for a 6-4 victory in the second game of a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark.

"It stinks because I felt really good," Embree said. "But it's a good lineup, and good lineups are going to get to you when you give them an opening. They got an opening."

They also got a leg up on the A's in what's become a spirited battle for second place in the American League West. The Rangers held a half-game lead going into the series, lost it Monday and took it back Tuesday.

"It's like a miniature playoff atmosphere," Geren said. "Both teams are really into it, you can tell."

Blalock is certainly into it. His ninth-inning homer in the opener sent the game into extra innings, and he's 5-for-8 with a double, three RBIs and three runs scored in the series.

"I'm just trying to do my job," Blalock said. "Anaheim is going to win the division, but even though we're going home instead of the playoffs, we still have a goal of beating Oakland for second. Anything I can do to help, I want to do it."

The A's opened the scoring when Jack Cust led off the second inning with his 31st homer of the year, a towering shot into the upper deck off Texas starter Dustin Nippert. The Rangers tied it up in their half of the frame when Travis Metcalf's sacrifice fly off rookie lefty Josh Outman scored Blalock, who had led off with a double and moved to third on a flyout.

The teams traded runs in the third, too, with Oakland's coming on a two-run homer by Travis Buck. The Rangers had to work considerably harder to tie the game, but they did so by stringing together four consecutive singles.

Outman also issued two walks in the inning before wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam, and rookie center fielder Carlos Gonzalez likely saved a run by gunning down Milton Bradley at second base from deep right-center as Bradley tried to stretch his RBI single into a double. Marlon Byrd followed with an RBI single of his own.

Outman, who gave up 10 hits and two walks over six innings, was in line to beat the Rangers for the second time in 11 days after Cliff Pennington hustled to stay out of an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh.

"He threw the ball well," Geren said of Outman. "He was facing one of the best hitting teams in baseball and held his own. He kept us in the game."

Embree, who said the pitch Blalock hit out was a fastball away, was particularly discouraged that he'd allowed the Rangers to tie it up before Blalock's blast.

"It's a big momentum change," he said. "When you come in after the team scores, you need to get that scoreless frame, and I honestly thought I had it."

It looked like he had it first when he snapped Bradley's bat, but the ball dribbled through the left side of the infield. It looked like he had it again when Byrd's bat splintered, but the blooper plopped softly into center field.

"Just about anywhere else on the field," Geren said, "and both of those balls are outs."

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