OAKLAND -- It had been a long time since Eric Sogard’s last home run when the A’s infielder came up in the seventh inning Wednesday and lined a 1-0 pitch from Rangers reliever Sam Freeman over the right-field wall.
"We tried to give him the silent treatment," right fielder Josh Reddick said of the ritual usually reserved for players who hit their first homer in the majors. "But I guess nobody really wanted to play a part of that."
One reason may have been that the home run came late in a game in which the A’s were trounced, 10-3, losing for the 88th time this season to match their highest total in the last 18 years -- with 10 games still to go.
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Still, Sogard’s homer was a refreshing moment on another listless night for the A’s -- if only for its rarity. The light-hitting middle infielder had gone 457 at-bats without one, or 141 games, dating back to a solo shot off of Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson last August 6. It was also only the second home run Sogard has ever hit at the O.co Coliseum, in 571 at-bats.
"It felt nice," Sogard said with a small grin. "Obviously haven’t had one in a while."
Sogard is one of the longest-tenured players in the A’s clubhouse, yet has spent most of his career in a utility role. That was going to be his role again this year, but A’s injuries made him their starting second baseman for much of the first half. Recently, though, his playing time has diminished again with Danny Valencia emerging as the everyday third baseman and Brett Lawrie getting more starts at second.
Wednesday night, Sogard got a rare start at shortstop and contributed two hits, including a third-inning single that helped the A’s manufacture their first run. The 2-for-4 night gave his season average a small boost to .248, and he has gone 9-for-28 (.321) over his last eight games.
That those numbers have coincided with his returning to more of a reserve role, Sogard said, is not entirely a coincidence. Usually players say that playing every day is better for their hitting, as it’s hard to keep a consistent swing with intermittent at-bats. But Sogard said the time off lately has actually "been good for me to kind of work on a few things."
Namely, Sogard said that he and hitting coach Darren Bush have worked on keeping his upper body upright throughout his stance and swing. When he starts to bend over, Sogard said, it locks up his hands -- "So I’ve really been staying taller, and it’s been freeing my hands up."
"I feel like everything’s starting to come together," Sogard said. "And it showed in a game like that."
As the A’s hurtle toward a last-place finish in the A.L. West -- they’ll ensure it with one more loss -- there’s still time for individual players to end the season on a high note. The work on his swing may be something Sogard can carry into next spring, and Wednesday night, he said, it was nice to have the work inspire the end of a long home run drought -- even if there was no silent treatment.
"I probably would’ve expected that after this long," Sogard said. "But I think the guys were excited for me. I was excited for myself. So it was good."
* The rest of the night was not so good for the A’s. Starter Felix Doubront allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, most of the damage coming on a pair of three-run homers by Elvis Andrus in the fourth inning and Adrian Beltre in the fifth. Doubront has an 8.33 ERA in his last five starts and in eight career appearances against the Rangers is now 0-6 with an ERA of 12.83.
"I think for the most part his cutter’s his pitch, and he just hasn’t been getting it in like he normally does," manager Bob Melvin said of Doubront’s recent struggles. "It’s just on the plate a little to where they can extend and get it."
Arnold Leon relieved Doubront in the fifth inning and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless. Melvin said he thought Leon did do a good job of working the inside corner of the plate and also mixed his pitches better than in previous outings.
"Those games are tough for anybody," Melvin said of mop-up duty. "You’re down some and you just want to go out there and focus on making pitches, and he did tonight."
* Reddick had only committed three errors on the season going into Wednesday’s game. Then he made two in consecutive innings, both times trying to corral a ball on the ground and seeing it kick off his glove.
Reddick said the first was a result of his being a little too aggressive on a Mitch Moreland single, trying to come up throwing with Adrian Beltre scoring from second base.
"It’s been getting to me: I haven’t thrown anybody out this year it feels like, so that could be a part of it," Reddick said.
He added the condition of the Coliseum outfield after Raider games also makes the grass play quicker, and he didn’t factor that in enough while charging the ball. The second play -- he came over toward the line to field a Delino DeShields double and missed, allowing DeShields to take third -- "I just botched really bad."
Reddick atoned somewhat in the sixth inning, hitting his 20th home run of the season. It’s a nice benchmark for Reddick, who hit 32 homers in his first season for the A’s in 2012 but had just 12 in each of the past two seasons.
"It’s a better number than ending the season with 19," Reddick said. "That 2 is obviously a better feeling than a 1 in front of it.
"But I’m going to go home and think more about the errors than I am the home run. It’s always nice to have that as a stat to end the season, but it’s definitely not overshadowing the errors made."
* It was an odd night in right field. Billy Burns almost had an inside-the-park home run when he yanked a grounder down the right-field line that got stuck under some chairs in the Rangers bullpen. The ball was ruled live, and Shin-Soo Choo managed to get a throw home in time to send Burns -- who had turned hard around third base -- scampering back to the bag.
The Rangers seemed to want a ground-rule double called, but Melvin after the game said the umpires had the rule right. His explanation: If the ball gets stuck under the bench in the bullpen, it’s a dead ball. But with expanded rosters and more pitchers in the bullpen, the Rangers had set up some extra chairs outside of the bench area, and that’s where the ball got stuck. So it was live, and Burns got the A’s 41st triple of the season -- an Oakland era record.
* The series finale Thursday has A’s right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-6, 2.82) opposing Texas left-hander Cole Hamels (4-1, 3.73). First pitch at 12:35 p.m.