OAKLAND -- A's starter Edgar Gonzalez lasted just four innings last week in Texas, but he was backed by five shutout innings from the bullpen and a huge night from the offense as the A's pounded their way to the third victory of what grew to a season-high-tying seven-game winning streak. On Monday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Gonzalez couldn't get through the fourth inning, the bullpen was less than stellar, and the pounding was provided almost exclusively by the visiting Rangers. Cooled off by Kevin Millwood, the A's didn't play well in any phase of the game as their streak came to an end with a 10-3 drubbing in the opener of a four-game series.
"We haven't had too many of these all year," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "You can't win every night." Certainly not when your starter has the kind of evening Gonzalez endured. Seemingly at odds with the strike zone of home-plate umpire Laz Diaz, Gonzalez gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks while throwing 73 pitches over 3 1/3 innings. "I thought I was throwing good pitches [on the corners], but he was calling a lot of balls," said Gonzalez, who gave Diaz a derisive tip of the cap upon exiting in the fourth. "After that I had to throw it right down the middle. There's nothing I can do about that." Millwood, meanwhile, was at his stingy best in allowing three singles, a walk and an unearned run while throwing 90 pitches over seven innings. "He was pretty sharp tonight," said Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki. "He kept the ball off the middle of the plate, and when he fell behind, he executed his pitches. You can't say, 'We should have done this,' or, 'We could have done that.' There's not really much you can say at all. We just couldn't muster anything against him." Added Geren: "That was the best I've seen him in a long time. His velocity was up, he worked the ball well on the corners. He was tough." Along the way, Millwood guaranteed his $12 million salary for next season by eclipsing the 180-innings mark for the year, turning that trick as the Rangers turned a double play in the fifth inning. "That's a $12 million pitch," Suzuki said. The Rangers scored an unearned run in the first inning after an error by A's third baseman Adam Kennedy, and the wheels started wobbling for Gonzalez in the second as Julio Borbon singled in two runs and a double by David Murphy made it 4-0. Consecutive RBI singles by Murphy and Hank Blalock with one out in the fourth chased Gonzalez, and after rookie lefty Brad Kilby ripped through 2 2/3 perfect innings, striking out three, the Oakland bullpen's 12-game stretch of brilliance (1.68 ERA) came to a screeching halt. Righty Jeff Gray, who'd posted a 1.86 ERA in 16 games since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Aug. 6, gave up two runs on three hits -- Chris Davis' two-run triple was the killer -- in the seventh inning. An inning later, righty Henry Rodriguez drew some appreciative hoots when he hit 100 mph on the stadium radar gun, but he also hit a batter, gave up a hit, walked one and allowed two runs. Only one of them was earned, though as both scored when second baseman Eric Patterson overthrew Rodriguez covering first base with one out. "His velocity was obviously very impressive, but his command of the strike zone wasn't there," Geren said. "He has a ways to go, based on what I saw tonight, but he's also got one of the best arms you'll see. You don't see the radar gun go to triple-digits very often around the league." The A's scored an unearned run of their own in the sixth as Cliff Pennington was hit by a pitch, moved to third on an error by Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rajai Davis. That was the extent of Oakland's offensive highlights until the bottom of the ninth, when rookie Matt Carson followed Davis' leadoff single with his first big league homer, a shot into the "BBQ Terrace" beyond the left-field wall off Eddie Guardado. "There were a couple bright spots," Geren said. Before the game, Geren spoke glowingly of his young team's effort over the past few months; Oakland is 34-30 since the All-Star break. Emboldened by the 12-2 run that peaked Sunday when the A's closed out a four-game sweep of the Indians, the skipper went so far as to speak of getting to .500 by the end of the year. "Just finishing strong and playing well down the stretch is the main thing," he said, "but finishing at .500 would be a great feat." Now eight games under, Oakland needs to go 10-2 from here on out to get there.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.