OAKLAND – The play on the field was ugly enough for the A’s in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to the Texas Rangers.
It wasn’t a pleasant scene inside the clubhouse afterward either, with starting pitcher Scott Kazmir ripping his team’s performance with a brutally frank critique.
“I feel like that was a game that just doesn’t happen in September when you’re in a pennant race,” Kazmir said. “You just don’t play like that. That’s just the way it is all the way, top to bottom. To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like that before at the major league level.”
What the veteran left-hander referred to was an uninspired, mistake-filled effort against a Rangers team that owns the worst record in the majors at 58-92. After two victories in Seattle that suggested maybe things were taking a promising turn, the A’s took a step backward Tuesday.
And although manager Bob Melvin has given his team a public tongue-lashing in recent weeks, Kazmir’s comments were the first time an A’s player has really called his teammates out.
Told that Melvin said the A’s didn’t look ready to play, Kazmir replied: “That’s exactly what it looked like.”
Kazmir (14-9) gave up nine hits and six runs (four earned) over 4 1/3 innings, though two errors and out-of-sync play from his defense contributed to his struggles.
Oakland is a team that’s stayed extremely tight-knit through an 11-23 slide that has dropped it from American League West leaders to wild card hopefuls. But Tuesday’s game was the rare occasion where there seemed to be cracks in the armor from a chemistry standpoint.
Kazmir and catcher Derek Norris had some words before Kazmir walked off the mound after being pulled in the fifth. After Kazmir addressed the media postgame, Norris came over and the two talked privately, first in front of Kazmir’s locker, then at Norris’ locker before taking the conversation elsewhere.
Melvin was asked about the conversation in the fifth inning.
“You know, it was just talking about some pitch selection,” the manager said.
Kazmir didn’t elaborate on the issue afterward.
“It’s just between me and him, just little things.”
Kazmir, who is 0-4 with an 8.22 ERA over his past five starts, was not without fault Tuesday, and he didn’t absolve himself of responsibility. He missed inside on an 0-1 fastball to Jake Smolinski in the fourth, and Smolinski hammered it for a two-run homer that broke a scoreless tie.
Asked about the errors behind him, Kazmir said: “It’s really tough, it makes you have to work. But one way or another, I should have got it done, and I didn’t.”
Melvin didn’t hide his displeasure with his team’s play either.
“Disappointing is what it was, it wasn’t frustrating,” Melvin said. “It just didn’t look like we were ready to play, for whatever reason, defensively. I thought we’d come ready to play tonight.”
One play epitomized the A’s night in Texas’ three-run fourth. With a runner on first, right fielder Josh Reddick threw out Daniel Robertson at second as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Shortstop Jed Lowrie applied the tag at second but was completely unaware that Rougned Odor continued motoring around third and scored all the way from first on the play.
Lowrie, who missed time with a fractured finger on his throwing hand that still isn’t 100 percent, made a throwing error that allowed one run to score in the fifth, and he also failed to get Odor on an infield single to short that seemed like it could have been an out in the fourth.
Was there not enough communication on the play that Odor scored on?
“I didn’t know he was going,” Lowrie said. “I had the ‘out’ in front of me (at second), and I turned around and I saw (Odor) running home.”
With just 12 games left, they can ill-afford any more like Tuesday’s.