"We talked about helping any way you can," said manager Bob Geren.
On cue, the A's went out and played one of their cleanest games of the year -- a day after making two errors and generally chopping it up on defense. Matt Holliday turned in two nice plays in left field, Travis Buck made a diving catch in right, the infield was air-tight and catcher Kurt Suzuki was a virtual wall.
The pitching was sharp, too. Spot starter Dan Giese gave up a homer to the second batter he faced, but he settled in and gave Oakland 5 2/3 sturdy innings before relievers Mike Wuertz, Russ Springer and Andrew Bailey teamed up on 3 1/3 innings of one-hit work without a walk.
"I thought overall we did more positive things," Holliday said. "Defense and pitching, when the offense isn't going good, can keep us in some games."
And it did in the opener of a two-game series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. When Rangers closer Frank Francisco issued a leadoff walk to Orlando Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth, Cabrera represented the tying run with Jason Giambi, Holliday and Jack Cust due up.
There's a big difference between staying in games and winning them, though, and the bottom line Wednesday was that the A's lost again, 3-2.
Francisco struck out Giambi and Holliday with nothing but fastballs, and after a single by Cust put runners at the corners, Francisco nailed down his ninth save in nine chances by getting Kurt Suzuki on a long fly ball to left field.
"If you locate your fastball, you can get away with anything," Francisco said, speaking specifically about his challenges of Giambi and Holliday. "Especially if you're [throwing] 94-95 [mph]."
Francisco was one of three Texas pitchers who held the A's to six hits. Righty Scott Feldman (2-0) picked up the victory with six innings of four-hit work.
Geren said Oakland's reports noted that Feldman was coming off a few strong outings and had been improving every time out. Buck explained what made Feldman so effective.
"He was really pounding the ball inside, especially to lefties," Buck said. "He threw a lot of cutters, and when it's 91-93 [mph] and he's throwing it for strikes, that's a tough pitch to hit. And he did a nice job by showing his curveball and change early in the game, so it wasn't like you could just sit on one pitch.
"It was just tough to square balls up."
Giese (0-3), whose previous four outings with the A's came as a long reliever, got the start in the wake of lefty Dana Eveland's recent demotion to the Minors and gave up three runs on eight hits without a walk.
"He did a nice job," Geren said, noting that Giese will be moved back into the bullpen as soon as possible. "He gave us what we were hoping for."
Giese gave Rangers rookie Elvis Andrus a first-inning fastball that flew over the left-field wall in a hurry.
"He hit a good pitch," Giese said. "It was up and in."
It proved to be the difference. The teams swapped two-run rallies in the fourth inning, the Rangers getting a sacrifice fly from David Murphy and an RBI single from Chris Davis before the A's struck back with a two-out, two-run double by Suzuki.
"We played a real solid game," Geren said. "We just didn't score enough runs."
And because they didn't, the A's lost their fourth consecutive game and sixth consecutive series opener while falling to seven games under .500 for the first time this year. They rank last in the American League in a number of key offensive categories, including batting, runs, slugging, on-base percentage, homers and extra-base hits.
"When you're a hitter who's hit your whole life ... it has to be frustrating," Geren conceded. "But everyone's been coming in for early work, extra hitting. Guys aren't giving up. We've got too many good hitters to not bust out of this thing at some point.
"Hopefully it's soon."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.