ARLINGTON, Texas – Gift giving is for Christmas and birthdays. It's not for June 17 in Rangers Ballpark.
That's what A's starter Dan Straily found so annoying in his performance in the A's 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
"I gave that one away," he said.
It wasn't on purpose, mind you, but Straily had a three-run lead after the A's scored six times in the fourth inning, but he wasn't able to make it through the fifth. And while reliever Jesse Chavez technically was saddled with the loss, it didn't much feel that way to Straily.
"We scored six. That should have been enough," Straily said when asked to define the nature of his gift. "We had a win. I'm not OK with that outing."
Pitching with the 6-4 lead in the fifth, Straily got two outs and had a man on second when things slipped away from him.
A.J. Pierzynski, who had homered earlier, doubled in a run.
And Nelson Cruz, who also had homered off Straily earlier, homered off his replacement, Chavez, to give the Rangers back the lead at 7-6.
Echoes of what Straily was feeling could be heard in Chavez's words as he shook his head after the game.
He had gotten ahead of Cruz 0-2 and tried to throw him a changeup down and away. He threw a changeup, no problem, but it was over the middle of the plate, and Cruz crushed it.
"It's plain unacceptable to let the guys down that way," Chavez said. "I was trying to change his eye level, playing off the sinker. It hurts."
Oakland would not lead again, although the A's had a run in and two men on in the ninth before succumbing to closer Joe Nathan.
Straily was coming off a streak of five starts in which he had allowed a total of nine runs, good for an ERA of 2.41. The first of those was a seven-inning, two-hit effort in Arlington in which the right-hander hadn't been touched in a 1-0 win.
Monday was nothing like that.
"I stayed aggressive, and they stayed aggressive," Straily said. "But my pitches were just up in the strike zone. It seemed like they were swinging out of their shoes tonight, swinging early and often.
"If I make better pitches, they're going to foul the ball off instead."
This is only a June series with more than half of the season still to play, but both teams have reason to play this one on the edge. The Rangers came in off six consecutive losses in which they had totaled just eight runs, prompting a talking-to from manager Ron Washington on Sunday.
The A's came in as winners of 22 of their last 29 games to take the West lead by storm.
A big series here could sour things for the Rangers, the team the A's tracked down on the final day of 2012 to win the American League West title.
The A's – and the Rangers, for that matter – aren't putting everything in that one game. But they are going to need Straily to pitch back to form. And that, catcher John Jaso said, should not be a problem.
"Straily is so good, I'm not worried about it. It happens," he said.
Oakland just can't afford to have it happen too often.