In a ballpark where literally anything can happen at anytime, all you can really ask is for your team to be within one swing of tying the game or winning it by the time the 9th inning rolls around. The A's got to that point a few minutes ago, with their biggest RBI threat at the plate no less, but just couldn't capitalize. Truth is, it wasn't Brown's pop-up in that situation that lost the game for the A's, it was Bad Sweeney's GIDP in the 2nd, Bobby Crosby's strikeout in the 5th and Barton and Suzuki's back-to-back unproductive ground-outs in the 4th that did the trick. We all know the drill, the A's walked, singled and doubled their way into numerous scoring opportunities but just couldn't come up with the timely hit.
Too bad for the A's, since Dana Eveland came up with a pretty gutsy outing tonight to keep the game close for 6 innings. As I predicted a few hours ago, Eveland ended up having some pretty big trouble against Hamilton and Bradley, whom went a combined 4 for 6 against Eveland with a homer, 3 RBIs and a walk. But you can't fault him for having trouble against the heart of the Texas order, especially after he shut down the rest of the lineup, only allowing those three runs while striking out 5 and only issuing 2 walks.
In hindsight, if only the A's bullpen parade of Casilla, Embree and Foulke could have buckled down and got one more out between them, this game might still be going on. And yet, it seemed like Geren really overplayed his hand by mixing-and-matching too much in the bottom of the 7th. Sure, Embree vs. Hamilton was a lefty-lefty matchup and yet Hamilton already showed earlier in the game that he can easily handle a fastball-oriented lefty just as well as any righty that might take the mound against him. Hamilton's single gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead and virtual control of the game. At the time, I would rather have had changeup-artist Foulke in there to take on Hamilton and keep him off-balance, but that move probably would have backfired as well, as Foulke eventually came in the next inning and gave up two runs on a double by Catallonoto and a bad-luck bloop single by Kinsler. At least Foulke, in his first action off the DL, looked good for 2/3 of an inning, striking out the first two batters he faced.
The aforementioned 9th inning rally at least showed some signs of life for the Green and Gold, ESPECIALLY Big Frank who finally came up with a timely, well-struck extra base hit to drive-in Good Sweeney who had singled to lead off and Barton who had walked and whom pulled the A's within two. But then there at the end, even the seemingly imperturbable Emil Brown (representing the tying run) showed that he is vulnerable to the Arlington voodoo by popping out to end the game.
KEY STAT - A's left on base = 10. No matter how spirited a 9th inning rally you can muster, you're still going to lose most games in which you leave that many runners on base.
GOOD NEWS: The Angels lost tonight to the Rays, so the A's remain tied at the top of the division.
GOOD NEWS: With Millwood leaving the game in the 1st due to injury, the Rangers had to use 6 different bullpen pitchers over the final 8 1/3 innings to get the win tonight. If the A's can jump on Sidney Ponson early tomorrow, they could be in good shape as far as late inning matchups go.
Another loss to the Rangers, no matter how hot of a pitching staff they have, is frustrating. It's a scary thought, but as ANer Bigtoe pointed out in the 2nd Game Thread, it seems like the 2008 Rangers might be to the 2008 A's what the 2006 A's were to the 2006 Mariners in that they might outplay them to such a degree in head-to-head matchups that the A's record against other teams might not matter much as far as the AL West standings go. I know that's a grossly premature statement, but it's worth thinking about. Hopefully Rich "The Stopper" Harden can put that thought out of our heads tomorrow in a glorious, healthy return to the mound.