Struggling A’s lose rubber game to Rangers

OAKLAND COLISEUM — It was a pitcher’s duel until the seventh inning. But Derek Holland and the Texas Rangers bested the Athletics in the finale of the series, shutting out Oakland 4-0 on Sunday.

Nelson Cruz and Mitch Moreland homered and Holland tossed eight scoreless innings to close the A’s lead in the American League West division to just 2- ½ games.

The top of the first inning was going perfectly for Oakland, with A.J. Griffin striking out the first two batters he faced. But Ian Kinsler reached on an error by Yoenis Cespedes and ended up at second, and Adrian Beltre capitalized on the A’s mistake by singling him home to get Texas on the board.

Cruz extended the lead with a solo shot in the second inning, and Moreland added some insurance with his two-run home run in the seventh. Moreland’s hit also knocked Griffin out of the game.

Even though he turned out to be the tough-luck loser, Griffin turned in a quality start. In 6-2/3 innings he allowed only three earned runs – four overall – and clearly had good command. Of his 108 pitches, 75 went for strikes, and he struck out seven while only waking one. But, once again, the long ball was problematic for Griffin; he’s now given up a Major League-leading 28 gopher balls. Despite that stat, Bob Melvin knows that Griffin isn’t pitching poorly:

A’s manager Bob Melvin

Video: CSN California

“We’ve been talking about them for awhile…the one to Moreland was the one you’d like to take back, the one that hurt him the most. Some of his hits are homeruns. Most of them are solos, and he’s not pitching poorly. But the homeruns do stand out…he continues to work on it.”

Holland, however, was simply better. He needed just 112 pitches to get through eight shutout innings. He gave up just four hits, walked only two, and struck out ten. As frustrated as he was with his offense, Melvin acknowledged that Holland pitched a great game:

“Holland pitched well, really well; probably the best we’ve seen him pitch in awhile. Had a good zone for him, the inside to a righty was there for him which made his change-up really tough to deal with…there were probably several factors today…but he was good.”

Oakland made some noise against Joe Nathan in the bottom of the ninth, getting the first two runners on base with no outs. Jed Lowrie walked and Cespedes beat out an infield hit, but Nathan got Brandon Moss and Alberto Callaspo to ground out, ending the game.

The A’s are now 8-8 since the All Star Break and 1-4 in their last five games. They’ve also struggled lately against their own division and are now under .500 (17-18) since May 10th against the West. Oakland’s division lead, which was as big as six games earlier this week, is now down to just 2-½ games. Despite their recent struggles at the plate and against division rivals, Griffin is optimistic about the future of his team:

“I’m not worried about our line-up. We’re going to turn the corner here, and it’s gonna be a good next week. Hopefully we just continue the momentum we’re going to get, and finish out the season, and keep going.”

Notes:

Griffin has allowed two home runs in each of last four starts, which is the longest streak by an A’s pitched since Mark Redman also had a four-game streak from June 27-July 17, 2004. … Callaspo is 4 for 46 (.086) in 16 games since the All Star Break after hitting .271 before the break. …Josh Reddick is 10 for 62 (.161) over his last 20 games. … It was the 582nd career victory for Rangers manager Ron Washington who now holds the record for most wins in franchise history. Washington was a fan favorite coach with the A’s from 1996-2006. Many felt he should have been hired by Oakland but General Manager Billy Beane chose Bob Geren who managed from 2007-2011.