OAKLAND -- Yu Darivsh was on the ropes at the Coliseum, again. The A’s had made Darvish throw 29 pitches in a three-run second inning. In the next two innings, they put five more runners on base.
But none of those five scored. With men on second and third and one out in the third, the Rangers ace struck out Alberto Callaspo -- who had entered the game batting .500 with runners in scoring position -- and got Josh Reddick to fly out to left.
In the fourth, the A’s loaded the bases with two outs for Josh Donaldson, batting cleanup on a night when Yoenis Cespedes sat out the early innings with a bruised heel. Donaldson fell behind 0-2 before working the count back to 2-2, but couldn’t check his swing on a slider away in the dirt.
It was Darvish’s 91st pitch already, but it allowed him to evade the knockout blow. The A’s only put one more runner in scoring position the rest of the game, gave back a 3-1 lead and lost it in the eighth, when the Rangers broke a 3-3 tie on Donnie Murphy’s RBI single off Sean Doolittle.
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"It’s just one of those things," Donaldson said. "He’s a good pitcher, he beared down on us a little bit. I came up with the bases loaded one time and he threw a pretty good slider there for strike three, was able to get out of it. The guy’s good. He’s not just your run of the mill guy."
Darvish had lost his last six starts against the A’s, including going 0-4 against them with a 4.13 ERA, and Oakland did jump out to an early lead when Brandon Moss homered leading off the second inning and Coco Crisp drove in two more with a two-out single.
This despite the fact Donaldson and manager Bob Melvin said Darvish seemed to throw his fastball more often and harder in the early going -- Donaldson said he thought it came in around 96 mph a few times. "Then once he got settled in a little he started changing speeds, and that’s what he does best," Donaldson said.
Still, the A’s had their chances. They drew four walks -- Darvish had walked just four all season coming in -- and knocked Darvish out of the game after six innings at 116 pitches. Cespedes entered the game in the seventh as a pinch-hitter and drove a ball to the wall in center field off reliever Neal Cotts that died feet short of being a home run.
"I thought when he hit it, it was (gone)," Melvin said. "When he hits one good it usually goes out. Just came up a little short."
In the ninth, the A’s put the tying run on second when Jed Lowrie reached on a throwing error by shortstop Elvis Andrus. But Joakim Soria got Donaldson to fly out to center, and Cespedes flew out to left on a full-count pitch -- after nearly twisting himself into the dirt swinging and missing at a 3-1 breaking ball -- to end it.
All told, the A’s stranded 11 runners on the night, after entering the game with the best OPS in the league (.812) with runners on base.
"The goal is to get guys on base and we were able to do that," Donaldson said. "More times than not, I feel like we’re going to come through in those situations. And tonight was just one of those days where it didn’t happen."
* Melvin termed starter Dan Straily’s outing "a little spotty at times." Straily allowed a leadoff home run to Shin-Soo Choo in the first, struck out the side in the second, gave up a run on back-to-back hits leading off the fourth and then had two outs in the fifth when he allowed three consecutive singles, the last by Prince Fielder to tie the game.
Straily said that his "first-pitch command was terrible tonight." He felt he spent many at-bats trying to work back into the count after falling behind early -- often on fastballs that missed high -- and paid for it a couple of times. He said the fastball Choo hit out was one where he "just left it up and over the plate," and said of the three consecutive hits in the fifth: "Just couldn’t keep the ball down."
Asked if that was a mechanical issue, Straily said: "Maybe. I’ll watch the video and see if there’s anything mechanical going on. It might have just been trying to do too much on 0-0 to make sure I’m not leaving the ball right down the middle."
Straily departed after five innings and just 84 pitches, but said he felt fine physically. He continues to have spurts of being very sharp -- he has 21 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings this season -- but at least Monday night said he felt he was "battling myself."
* Doolittle wasn’t as upset about the pitch that Murphy hit for the go-ahead RBI single as he was about the fastball that Kevin Kouzmanoff had hit for a lead-off double. Doolittle said he was trying to go away with the pitch to Kouzmanoff but left it "up-middle," and Kouzmanoff -- the reigning A.L. Player of the Week -- lined it to right-center.
After Mitch Moreland bunted, Murphy lined a 2-1 fastball up the middle past a pulled-in A’s infield to break the tie. "I thought I was going to be able to find a way to get him out, but he did a good job staying short on what I thought was a good pitch," Doolittle said. "I got the first (strike) by him and he made the adjustment and shortened up."
Doolittle has allowed at least one run and multiple hits in three of his last six outings -- a bit of an uncharacteristic stretch for the left-hander, who just signed a new five-year deal over the weekend.
* One victory the A’s did get Monday night -- Melvin challenged a safe-out call at first base in the seventh and won, marking his first successful replay challenge in his fifth try. Choo hit a ball off reliever Fernando Abad that kicked to Donaldson, who threw to first just as Choo crossed the bag.
Choo was initially ruled safe. After a 3-minute, 45-second review, however, the call was overturned.
"Based on the replay I wasn’t seeing I wasn’t sure about it, but they (in the A’s replay area) said there was one replay that showed he was out," Melvin said. "But at that point in time I’m going to challenge it anyway."
Choo, who was leading off the inning in a 3-3 game, had actually already left the field and was being looked at by trainers in the dugout when the call was made. The Rangers later said Choo sprained his left ankle on the play, and he did not come out for defense in the bottom of the inning.
Donaldson said he initially didn’t know whether his throw had beaten Choo or not.
"Obviously that’s what replay’s for, because those calls are bang-bang," Donaldson said. "I’d hate to be the one that’s always making those calls."
* Coco Crisp also got a brief trainer visit after diving for a ball in the sixth and appearing to get the wind knocked out of him. But Crisp, who reached base four times in the game, stayed in and made an impressive catch the following inning ranging into the left-center field gap and making a full-extension leap to snare a line drive from Andrus.
Melvin said Crisp’s issue was "ribs. And we’ll see how he feels tomorrow -- second time he’s dove and nicked that area up a little bit."
* It’s Tommy Milone (0-1, 4.09) going for the A’s in game two Tuesday against Rangers right-hander Nick Martinez (0-0, 4.50). The A’s will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time all season -- they remain the only team in the majors that hasn’t. First pitch at 7:05 p.m.