Gritty A's find victory elusive

Mazzaro strong but A's fall

LOS ANGELES -- In three games at Dodger Stadium, the Oakland A's played the Dodgers about as well as any team could play the team with the best record in baseball.

The A's matched the Dodgers in starting pitching, they hit home runs and they prevented small rallies from becoming insurmountable.

The only thing the A's couldn't seem to do was come through in the late innings for the win.

That was the case Thursday night when the A's fell to the Dodgers, 3-2 -- their second one-run loss of the series.

And while the two losses sting, manager Bob Geren can draw some positives from playing the Dodgers so tough.

"They have the best record in baseball and we had a chance to win every single game," he said. "It never feels good losing two out of three, but it is a good feeling that you can compete with the best team record-wise in baseball.

"One hit, one ground ball getting through or not getting through -- either way -- and we could have won two out of three or even three out of three."

The game started off well for Oakland and its rookie right-hander, Vin Mazzaro.

Mazzaro retired the Dodgers 1-2-3 in the first inning and escaped a one-out, base-loaded jam in the second.

Mazzaro wasted no time on the mound, quickly getting in position to throw his next pitch after receiving the ball from catcher Kurt Suzuki. He mixed his pitches well, and hit his spots on the inside and outside parts of the plate.

"He's been great," said Matt Holliday, who went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. "When you have other team's players telling you that the guy's got great stuff, then that's usually a pretty good sign that he's got the attention of the opposition."

But after the A's took a 1-0 lead in the third on Suzuki's RBI double, Mazzaro made one of his few mistakes of the night.

Facing Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson, Mazzaro hung a changeup over the plate that Hudson crushed over the center-field fence for a game-tying home run.

Sometimes a home run can be the beginning of the end for a young pitcher, but Mazzaro rebounded to pitch six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits.

"It's not a big deal. You're going to give up home runs," Mazzaro said. "It's what you do afterwards and you just can't lose your focus."

In the fifth Mazzaro ran into a little more serious trouble but was bailed out by a heady play from his catcher.

Russell Martin opened the inning with an infield single that was in part due to a double-clutch by shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Martin advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Randy Wolf and then scored when Juan Pierre singled to center.

The A's were able to prevent any further damage in the inning, thanks to Suzuki. Pierre tried to advance to second on his single when center fielder Rajai Davis threw home, but Suzuki alertly tossed the ball to Cabrera, who tagged Pierre for the inning's second out.

The A's clutch play in the field was not duplicated in the batter's box. Oakland grounded into four double plays in the game, with three in the final four innings.

"You know a couple of them, if they were three or four feet the other way they might have gotten through, and they were all close at first base," Geren said. "You've got to give their middle infielders some credit for doing some nice turns."

Oakland managed to tie the game in the seventh without ever putting a decent swing on the ball. Davis started the rally when Dodgers reliever Cory Wade hit the him in the back with a pitch.

Then Nomar Garciaparra (pinch-hitting for Mazzaro) blooped a single down the left-field line that scored Davis all the way from first base, after Pierre threw to second to prevent Garciaparra from advancing.

But much like its 1-0 lead in the third inning, Oakland's 2-2 tie was brief.

Right-hander Brad Ziegler gave up a ground-rule double to James Loney, walked a batter and then yielded an RBI single to pinch-hitter Mark Loretta that proved to be the game's winning run.

While this marked the second time the series that Ziegler has come on in relief only to record a loss, Geren said Ziegler had decent stuff on the mound.

"He got the ground ball just like we were talking about. He got the ground ball and it got through the hole," he said.

"If that ball goes 10 feet to the right, that's a double play. ... He's not a big strikeout pitcher, he's a ground-ball pitcher, so when you get ground balls you hope they're at people."

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