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08/07/10 1:40 AM ET
A's stung by Rangers' homers
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Manager Bob Geren, more often than not, tends to spend a good chunk of his postgame media chat drumming over "the difference in the game." And, when facing a loss, said difference often comes in the form of an opposing home run. On Friday, it was two. Two long balls from the power-heavy Rangers lineup. Thus, Geren was forced to state the obvious following a 5-1 loss to division foe Texas. Those homers really hurt. "Home runs are king," the A's skipper said. "That's something that helps teams win games." What doesn't necessarily help the winning process is dealing with recently departed wisdom teeth. Just ask Friday starter Dallas Braden, who gave up the pair of Rangers home runs before exiting after just six innings and 88 pitches due to resulting jaw pain from having teeth pulled on Tuesday. "It just got to a point where my neck, around the fourth inning, began to tighten," Braden said. "I took a breath and that cold air hit the nerve, and my head started pounding." Braden actually began the contest posting two quick innings, but he gave up back-to-back doubles in the third, one to Taylor Teagarden and the latter -- resulting in the Rangers' first run of the night -- to Elvis Andrus. "I thought he was throwing the ball fine," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "He obviously wasn't feeling too hot. He said his head was kind of hurting, and you could tell he wasn't feeling all the great on the mound, but he's going to go out there and battle." Still, Texas' second, third and fourth runs proved to be the product of the long ball. In the fourth, Josh Hamilton tagged Braden's first-pitch slider for a home run to right-center. Just one inning later, Teagarden went deep to the other side of the park, riding a 1-2 changeup over the left-center-field wall for a two-run shot. "Teagarden teed off," Braden said, "and other than that, I hung a breaking ball to Hamilton, and he deposited kindly. It just wasn't where it could have been, obviously. "If Teagarden doesn't swing at the changeup, Suzuki probably blocks it. He had no business swinging at the cutting sinker inside that he pulled down the line for a double. He did a great job of handling pitches that were down and out of the zone. If I made my pitch, he wouldn't have hit it. So I didn't make my pitch." There's no such thing as an excuse with Braden, who handed a 4-1 game over to the bullpen after six innings that had five hits, four runs, two walks and a strikeout attached to his name on a night he deemed himself "unimpressive at best." The A's lefty dropped to 6-8 on the season after his offense gave him just one run of support. He couldn't have expected much more, though, given his pitching counterpart for the evening. Lefty Cliff Lee, who just last week tossed a nine-inning gem against Oakland that resulted in a no-decision, finally got his win following eight innings of one-run ball Friday night. The Texas hurler gave up seven hits and struck out eight while walking none and improving to 10-5. Two of those seven hits -- consecutive extra-base hits from Daric Barton and Suzuki -- came in the first inning. It's the one frame that seems to lend Lee a little trouble, as evidenced by his opponents' .337 batting average in the frame. After that, though, he transforms into the pitcher who has compiled 10 consecutive outings of at least eight innings. "I was a little erratic early, not hitting my spot," Lee said. "But the ball Barton hit was a good pitch. Suzuki did a good job getting a good pitch to hit and driving in the run." "He was commanding both sides of the plate," Geren said. "He has a real good idea of what he's doing with the ball out there. There's an old saying you can believe if you want, and that's that the good pitchers tend to get better as the game goes on. You have to get to them early." Following the first frame, the A's put just three runners on base over the next six frames -- none of which advanced past second. In the eighth, they had men on first and second with two outs but Kevin Kouzmanoff went down swinging to end what turned out to be the club's final scoring threat. "That's pretty much the same thing you always see when you face him -- he was throwing a lot of strikes and locating his pitches well," Barton said of Lee. "That's what makes him good. He's got a good curve that you can't really pick up, he spots his fastball and gets ahead in the count and pounds the zone and hits his spots." "He throws strikes," Suzuki said. "He gets you on your heels and attacks you, that's what good pitchers do. He can move the ball to every part of the plate: up, down, in, out. He can throw every pitch for a strike, and there's not really a secret to his game. He's aggressive, and he's not scared to go out there and just attack you." The A's, who watched the Rangers score their fifth and final run in the eighth on Brad Ziegler's first career balk, have now lost five of their past eight contests and find themselves 9 1/2 games behind Texas in the American League West -- numbers that aren't going unnoticed, according to Braden. "We're all pretty aware, pretty apparent of what's going on," Braden said. "By no means do we feel we're out of it or anything like that. We know we can compete. We played these guys tough the last time out. For a team that expects what we expect of ourselves, it sucks to get off on this foot."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.