OAKLAND (AP) — When everything is rolling for the Oakland Athletics, Brandon Moss’ line drive with two runners on in the sixth falls perfectly in the gap for a key hit. On Wednesday, Nelson Cruz ran down the ball and snagged it for a spectacular diving catch.
The reigning AL West champion A’s are in another familiar first-half funk after dropping the series finale to the first-place Texas Rangers 6-2, Oakland’s eighth loss in 10 games.
“We’re not playing well right now and we have to power through this, win some games and get on a roll,” manager Bob Melvin said.
His A’s (20-22) fell two games below .500 for the first time since the second day of the season.
Cruz hit a three-run homer in the Rangers’ four-run fifth, but he counted his catch to end the sixth with runners on first and second as his highlight of the day.
“I had four or five steps before I got to the ball, I thought I had a chance before I dived,” Cruz said. “I think the catch in that situation was nice.”
“It’s huge,” Melvin said. “If the ball gets down, it’s two runs and it’s a different game. If there was one particular play that had a big effect on the game, it was that one.”
On the heels of a tough 3-7 road trip through New York, Cleveland and Seattle, the A’s won the series opener with Texas 5-1 on Monday night, then lost in 10 innings Tuesday.
Alexi Ogando (4-2) didn’t allow a hit until Eric Sogard’s leadoff double in the sixth. The right-hander won his second straight decision and earned only his second victory in seven outings since consecutive wins starting the season. It was Ogando’s first career win against Oakland.
Cruz greeted reliever Jesse Chavez in the fifth with a first-pitch drive to left for his 10th homer. His defense helped secure Texas’ latest impressive win.
“Cruz made an awesome catch,” said Oakland catcher John Jaso, who left after being hit by a pitch on the right shin in the fourth. “That’s the break of the game right there. It’s a totally different game if he doesn’t make that catch.”
Lance Berkman hit a two-run single and Adrian Beltre added an RBI single a day after hitting a 10th-inning home run. Elvis Andrus stole his ninth and 10th bases as the Rangers won their first series in Oakland since Sept. 20-22, 2011.
Derek Norris hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth for Oakland’s first run. Coco Crisp, fresh off the disabled list, added one of his own in the seventh.
Last Oct. 3, Ogando entered in relief of the Rangers’ 12-5 loss in Game No. 162 and was tagged for four runs in the eighth inning as the A’s rallied to grab the AL West crown away from the Rangers.
Now, with the AL West-leading Rangers on a nice roll in mid-May, Ogando’s first road win in his last six outings gave Texas some momentum heading home for a key four-game series with the Tigers starting Thursday.
The right-hander allowed two runs on four hits in six innings in his majors-leading seventh road start, his second ever against the A’s and first in the Coliseum.
The Rangers wrapped up a 6-3 trip, and these clubs meet again for three games beginning Monday in Arlington.
“We wanted to come here and play good baseball and we’re fortunate we did,” manager Ron Washington said.
The A’s loaded the bases with one out against Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman in the seventh, but got only Crisp’s sacrifice fly.
Oakland starter Dan Straily (1-2) had his problems, too.
He plunked Ian Kinsler and Andrus back to back to load the bases with two outs in the third, then Berkman’s single up the middle gave the Rangers the lead.
Straily avoided further damage in the fourth. After consecutive one-out walks to Mitch Moreland and David Murphy, and a wild pitch that advanced them both, Straily got a pair of flyball outs to escape unscathed. He walked four and struck out two in 4 1-3 innings of his second straight losing start and fourth consecutive winless outing.
“I was missing spots. At least I missed down and not over the plate,” Straily said. “It’s not being consistent whatsoever. That’s what hurts the team and hurts me. I have to pitch how I am capable of pitching.”
Crisp returned from a strained left hamstring and went 0 for 3 in his usual leadoff spot and playing center field.
NOTES: A’s LHP Brett Anderson experienced further soreness in his sprained right ankle after going through pitcher’s fielding practice Tuesday. “Brett won’t pitch tomorrow and maybe not in the foreseeable future here,” Melvin said. “We’re just not past the soreness that he’s getting.” ... After getting a break Wednesday, Oakland OF Chris Young (strained left quadriceps) is scheduled to play one more rehab outing Thursday with Triple-A Sacramento with the hope he will be activated from the DL on Friday ahead of a home weekend series against the Kansas City Royals. ... Melvin will spend Thursday’s off day next door at Oracle Arena cheering on the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio.