A's watch lead, series slip away vs. Sox
Oakland scores three in first inning; Kennedy gives up one run
OAKLAND -- A's closer Huston Street didn't allow a run in 11 Cactus League appearances this spring, and he opened the regular season with four more scoreless appearances, saving two games and winning one.
The last time he'd allowed a run before taking the loss in Oakland's 6-3 setback at the hands of the visiting White Sox on Wednesday came when Magglio Ordonez closed out Detroit's sweep of the A's in the 2006 American League Championship Series with a walk-off homer in Game 4.
But after emerging from a solid 30 minutes of study in the clubhouse video room, Street calmly explained he wasn't torturing himself or searching for subtle mechanical flaws. He simply wanted to see just how far off the plate he'd been with the pitches that led to his disastrous ninth inning in the finale of a three-game series at McAfee Coliseum.
Street, who entered with the score tied, threw nine consecutive balls at one point and allowed three runs on two hits, three walks (one intentional) and a sacrifice fly. The at-bat in which he was most interested was against A.J. Pierzynski, whose one-out walk with a runner on first set the whole sordid mess in motion.
A's manager Bob Geren insisted that he had no problem with the home plate umpire's strike zone, saying he thought Joe West "called a real good game." But Street, while trying his best not to throw the ump under the bus, didn't sound entirely convinced.
"They were close," he said. "Sometimes you get the call, and sometimes you don't. ... You've gottta come back and make better pitches [when you don't]."
Street didn't get many close calls, and he didn't come back with better pitches. After walking Pierzynski, he walked Scott Podsednik to load the bases. And after a sacrifice fly on which Street said the swirling afternoon wind blew what he thought was a perfect throw home from left fielder Shannon Stewart "way off course," Street surrendered a two-run double by Paul Konerko before being taken out of the game.
"Sometimes early in the year, guys aren't always locked in on both sides of the ball," Konerko said. "I'm sure when [Street] gets locked in, that's not going to happen."
But Street had been locked in. That, and the eighth-inning struggles of star setup man Justin Duchscherer, is what made Wednesday such a downer for the A's. Handed a 3-1 lead, Duchscherer gave up a game-tying two-run homer with two outs to former Oakland teammate Jermaine Dye.
"If you tell us before the game that we'll have a 3-1 lead going into the eighth with Duke and Street," said A's starter Joe Kennedy, "we'll take it."
Added Geren: "I'll take that every night. ... It'll work out in our favor a lot more often than not."
Alas, after a rousing bottom of the first inning in which the A's were sparked by their newly installed leadoff and No. 2 hitters, Shannon Stewart and Nick Swisher, and banged out three doubles on the way to three runs, not much worked out in Oakland's favor at all.
White Sox starter Mark Buehrle didn't allow another hit after the first, and relievers David Aardsma and Bobby Jenks each worked a perfect inning. The A's have yet to win a series this season.
"We had a great start, but Buerhle settled in and pitched real well after that," Geren said. "His last 70 or 80 pitches were pretty pinpoint."
Kennedy was never quite pinpoint with his command, particularly with his fastball, but the only run he allowed over five innings came when Dye singled to open the second and eventually scored on a single by Juan Uribe.
Asked if he cared whether he'd pitched well enough to avoid his turn in the rotation being skipped in the wake of next Monday's off day, Kennedy said, "No. It's about the team. It's about winning games."
Kiko Calero and Jay Marshall teamed up on two shutout innings in relief, but Dye's blast off Duchscherer stuck Oakland's No. 5 starter with a tough no-decision. He's 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts.
"I think it was a slider that didn't really slide," Dye said. "I got a pitch that I was able to drive and didn't foul it off -- drove it out of the park."
It wasn't a slider. And it wasn't close to where Duchscherer wanted it.
"Cutter up. Not good," he said, adding that he intended for the pitch to be low and away. "I just didn't get it over there."
So in came Street, inheriting a non-save situation in the ninth for the second consecutive game. His location, at least according to West's calls, wasn't any better.
"There's probably 30 calls every game that go wrong for somebody," Street said. "But that's baseball. It happens. I'm over it."
Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.