OAKLAND (AP) — Oakland manager Bob Melvin has seen his team’s lead in the AL West Division shrink by 3 1-2 games the past week. Nothing to worry about, he says. The Athletics were in a worse position at this time last year.
“When you’re in first place, the last thing you want to do is play to hold onto the lead,” Melvin said. “We have to play like we are five games behind and not get caught up in the standings.”
The A’s lost another game off their lead Sunday when Derek Holland threw eight shutout innings and the Texas Rangers took the series with a 4-0 victory.
The A’s have been in first place since July 1, and held a six-game lead a week ago. That lead is down to 2 1-2 games entering Monday’s off day.
“We’re having a tough time putting two games together in a row,” Melvin said. “We’ve been in a little bit of a rut, whether it’s our defense, whether it’s our pitching at times, or we haven’t been timely as far as that goes.”
The A’s committed two errors and were limited to five hits on Sunday. A.J. Griffin pitched a solid game, but allowed two more home runs, giving him a major-league leading 28. The A’s are hitting .214 over their last 21 games.
“We do have the guys with the ability to take care of that,” Melvin said. “We’re confident we will. We just need to sustain it. Not just one game here and one game there. We need to get on a roll with it and then we can put this period past us.”
Nate Freiman had two hits for the A’s, who have lost four of five.
Griffin (10-8) lasted 6 2-3 innings, allowing four runs — three earned — on five hits. He walked one and struck out seven.
“It’s just two pitches every game,” Griffin said. “I feel like I pitched real well all game. Then Moreland hits a home run. That’s the way it goes. I don’t worry about our lineup. The little slump, it’s going to pass and we’re going to go out there and rake. We’re going to turn the corner here.”
Griffin became the first Oakland pitcher to give up two or more home runs in four consecutive starts since Mark Redman did it in 2007.
He pitched well enough to keep us in the game. We just didn’t do much offensively,” Melvin said. “He’s not pitching poorly. The home runs just stand out.”
The A’s managed to rally in the ninth when Joe Nathan walked Josh Donaldson and allowed an infield single to Yoenis Cespedes to start the inning. Pinch hitter Brandon Moss grounded into a force out and Alberto Callapso hit into a game-ending double play.
“Personally I’m not frustrated,” A’s Coco Crisp said. “It happens, wish it didn’t, but it’s the way it goes. You just keep working at it.”
NOTES: Rangers RHP Matt Garza apologized for remarks he made on twitter following Saturday’s loss. He responded in anger to a tweet by Eric Sogard’s wife, KayCee. He gave this statement: “All I want to say is I let my competitive spirit cross outside the lines, and that shouldn’t happen. I let my passion, my fire carry over, and that’s not how this game should be played. And for that I apologize to the Sogards for anything that was said through my Twitter. That’s all I have. I regret what happened.” ... Sogard and his wife said they have been treating it as though it were a joke and would continue to do so. “There’s no hard feelings,” he said. ... RHP Dan Straily (6-5, 4.41) will start Tuesday night in Cincinnati for the A’s. He is on a three-game losing streak. ... A’s C Stephen Vogt, who was hit on the top of his head by the backswing of Jurickson Profar Saturday, was cleared to play following a battery of tests. ... A’s C John Jaso (concussion) is closer to resuming baseball activities. ... A’s RHP Grant Balfour spent about 20 minutes before the game with an Australian youth baseball team hosted by a team from nearby Alameda.