It has been the theme of the season for the 2012 Oakland Athletics: situational hitting, or lack thereof.
Failing to plate the tying run at third base with one out in the ninth, the A's fell to first-place Texas 7-6 Thursday night in a nearly four-hour game. Tyson Ross took the loss as the Rangers rallied in the fifth inning to score four and take the lead for good.
The game started promising as Josh Reddick smashed his team-leading 18th home run off of Texas starter Scott Feldman in the first inning. The Rangers immediately responded as Josh Hamilton knocked in Ian Kinsler with an RBI groundout.
The long ball continued in the third as as Derek Norris and Cliff Pennington hit back-to-back home runs to make it 3-1. Three batters later, Yoenis Cespedes singled in Coco Crisp and it was suddenly 4-1.
Ross could not hold the lead as after allowing a run in the third, in the bottom of the fifth he failed to record an out. Two walks, two infield singles and two stolen bases helped to tie the score at 4-4. With two out, reliever Jim Miller allowed a two-run single to David Murphy and it was 6-4. Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly seemed to be enough for Texas as they led 7-4 after six innings.
The A's however would rally. With two on and one out, Cespedes singled to center ,scoring Crisp. A Seth Smith sacrifice fly made it 7-6, but the A's would get no closer. In the ninth, they put runners on first and third with a walk to Reddick and a flare single to right by Cespedes.
But Smith struck out on a nasty slider in the dirt. Then, Brandon Inge hit a weak grounder to shortstop to end the game.
Which player do the A's miss the most?
Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban Missile was 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position. The rest of the team was 0-for-7. That says about as much as you can about his hitting tonight. He continues to adjust to big-league pitching and is up to a .279 average while slugging .509. The potential of a Reddick and Cespedes tandem is enough to make any A's fan optimistic going forward.
Tyson Ross. Rough start for Ross who again faltered after the 60-pitch mark. His pitches flattened out and he began to lose control, something he struggles with anyway. It added up to a rough fifth inning that ultimately decided the game.
For the year, his ERA sits at 6.35 and there isn't much I can see that will eradicate his issues (struggles against lefties, control, stamina).
Everyone other than Cespedes with RISP. It happened. Again. A's have chances to score. A's can't make necessary swings to get runners in. And it cost the A's a game. Again.
Not just the 0-for-7 with RISP, it was the situations. Seth Smith has been swinging a great bat, but was way too anxious against Joe Nathan in the ninth. A dribbler would have tied the score, even a sac fly. Instead, he struck out and the A's lose another frustrating one-run game.
Now 37-40, the A's will try to even the series Friday night as rookie A.J. Griffin tries to follow his solid start last Sunday against 10-game winner Matt Harrison. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m. PT.