ARLINGTON -- The A's entered this week's three-game set with the first-place Rangers knowing full well they needed to play their best baseball.
So on Tuesday night, entering the affair more than seven games back, they attempted to do just that.
On the other end, though, hurler Cliff Lee and outfielder Nelson Cruz teamed up to derail that plan. And in the end, the A's found themselves losers of a 3-1 game and 8 1/2 games back in the division.
Lee, traded within the American League West from Seattle to Texas just two weeks ago, recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts -- a handful of which A's manager Bob Geren would probably like to view on replay. And Cruz, who at one time roamed around the Oakland organization, took away what would have become a game-changing homer while also collecting a game-changing homer of his own.
After robbing Kevin Kouzmanoff of a two-run shot at the right-field wall in a tied game in the sixth, Cruz played the hero in the bottom of the 10th, tagging righty Michael Wuertz for a two-run walk-off long ball that sealed a Rangers victory.
"Right away, I thought it was way out," said Wuertz, who said the 1-1 pitch was "supposed to be a slider. It caught up with the wind and died down a bit, but then it got out. ... He did what he needed to do."
So did Lee, who had to settle for a no-decision after nine impressive innings of work that resulted in just one run -- an unearned run that was the result of a rather odd scene with Texas leading, 1-0, in the sixth. With one out and Coco Crisp on first after singling, the A's outfielder made his way to second on a steal attempt after Daric Barton struck out, only to end up on third after Rangers catcher Bengie Molina threw to an empty second base. Crisp, credited with a stolen base, then scored on an RBI base hit off the bat of Kurt Suzuki.
Molina was initially tagged with an error, but after consulting with the Rangers' coaching staff, the official scorekeeper instead handed the error to second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez was keeping the A's within reach with six innings -- not all of them solid -- of his own. He surrendered an RBI double to Vladimir Guerrero in the first frame, and he worked his way out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the second. But the A's lefty calmed down over the next four innings, attempting to match Lee's gem and leaving after six with five hits, one run, three walks and six strikeouts attached to his name.
"We went up against a first-place team," the A's lefty said. "We battled all the way through. We stayed right with Cliff Lee the whole time. I did my best to get some ground-ball outs and keep us in the game."
It was a game that had the A's called out on strikes seven times, a number that, when mentioned to Geren in relation to a questionable strike zone, left the A's manager simply shaking his head.
"I can't talk about that," he said.
He did have plenty to say to home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley, who ejected Jack Cust in the seventh frame following Cust's third called strikeout of the game. Danley also had a lengthy -- but seemingly friendly -- chat with Crisp after the A's outfielder struck out against Lee to end the eighth.
When asked about Lee, Geren simply offered: "He didn't walk anyone. He threw a lot of strikes."
Lee threw a season-high 118 pitches in the effort, which saw him pitch at least eight innings for the eighth consecutive start -- marking the longest streak by any pitcher since Toronto's Pat Hentgen had a 12-game run in 1996.
"That game was all Cliff Lee," Texas' Michael Young said. "You can't say enough about the job he did. Their starting pitcher threw the ball really well, but Cliff dealt for nine innings."
"A well-pitched game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We just got finished with Anaheim with its pitching, and now here comes Oakland with its pitching. [The A's] have a good bullpen and a solid rotation. It's going to be a battle."
Lee's gutsy performance was followed by a shutout 10th frame from Neftali Feliz, who allowed a leadoff single to Adam Rosales before retiring the next three batters to end Oakland's late-inning threat. In the bottom half of the frame, Wuertz struck out Guerrero but walked Josh Hamilton before Cruz came to the plate and ended the extra-innings affair in dramatic fashion.
"We've had real close games with them all year," Geren said. "Nelson Cruz pretty much took two runs away with that catch from Kouz's ball, and then he hit the homer. That was really the difference right there."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.