OAKLAND – Maybe the most pressing new question in the American League West race between the A's and Texas Rangers was posed to Eric Sogard at his locker Sunday morning: Next time Sogard faces Rangers right-hander Matt Garza, will he bunt? "We'll see," Sogard said with a grin. "It seemed to work out yesterday."
Not only to help the A's secure the lone win in their weekend series against Texas, but as the genesis of a brief controversy that had most of the talk before the Rangers' 4-0 win in Sunday's series finale involving not baseball, but Twitter.
After Sogard bunted twice in Saturday's 4-2 A's win, once on a squeeze play that Garza seemed to take issue with on the field, Garza took to Twitter and made disparaging comments toward Sogard and his wife, Kaycee.
Kaycee Sogard had tweeted after Garza yelled at her husband for the squeeze play that Eric Sogard was unlikely to respond to "getting called names." Garza apologized Sunday, with Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine also apologizing on behalf of the team to the Sogards and the A's and describing Garza's comments as "totally inappropriate."
But fodder for a budding division rivalry? Sogard said the Twitter flap could "make it a little more exciting for the fans, at least," and that upon seeing Garza's comments, a few teammates "didn't appreciate what he was saying." But Sogard said both he and his wife "took it as a joke."
"We didn't take offense to it at all," Sogard said. "Who knows if he was still in the heat of the moment, in that game mode?"
Nor did either manager indicate it might have any bearing on the teams' remaining games. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he hadn't talked with Garza – and he doesn't use Twitter.
The A's Bob Melvin was asked if a layer had been added to the West rivalry between his team and the Rangers, and he shook his head.
"It's already a good one," Melvin said, "based on what happened last year and where we both are this year."
That's separated by 2 1/2 games after Texas rode eight shutout innings from starter Derek Holland and two home runs off right-hander A.J. Griffin to beat the A's for the eighth time in 13 meetings this season.
After using small ball to ignite their offense Saturday, the A's got back to swinging away against Holland and had little to show for it. Holland allowed one hit – a single by Nate Freiman – over the first 6 1/3 innings.
Freiman also singled in the seventh, and Chris Young followed with a two-out hit, but Josh Reddick struck out to end the inning.
The A's were shut out for the ninth time this season and are averaging 3.2 runs over their past 22 games.
"We've had a tough time putting two good games in a row together," Melvin said. "We do have the guys and the ability to take care of that and we're confident we will. We just need to sustain it."
They're still 12-10 in that span, largely because of a pitching staff that has allowed two or fewer runs eight times.
Two swings Sunday ensured that wouldn't be the case. Nelson Cruz led off the second inning with a home run to left, and Mitch Moreland hit a two-run homer to right in the seventh off Griffin, who has allowed a majors-leading 28 homers this year in 23 starts.
Griffin might have gotten out of the seventh untouched but for a foul popup by Craig Gentry that Freiman couldn't secure. Gentry hit a two-out single, and Moreland deposited Griffin's 0-1 pitch into the seats in right field.
The Rangers' first run came after a dropped fly ball by Yoenis Cespedes that allowed Ian Kinsler to reach second base with two outs and score on Adrian Beltre's single.
"Pretty frustrated," said Griffin, who allowed five hits and struck out seven. "They have a good lineup, and I felt like I pretty much dominated them for 6 2/3 (innings), and then Moreland just hit a homer."
The Rangers have won four of five to gain ground in the division, while the A's have lost four of five. The teams next meet the first week of September – and until then, Melvin said, there's no reason for the A's to be watching the Rangers in the standings.
"When you're in first place, the last thing you want to do is try to hold your lead," Melvin said. "You have to play like you're catching up.
"We have to come in and be real aggressive, and really not get caught up in the standings. We are in a better position, but that doesn't guarantee anything. We were in a worse position last year and ended up winning."