A's lack of hitting taking toll on pitching
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OAKLAND -- Some four hours earlier, Bob Melvin was talking about how the A's needed to play with the urgency of a team that was trailing in the standings by five games.

And after Oakland sleepwalked -- was lulled to sleep by Texas starter Derek Holland? -- through a 4-0 defeat to the Rangers, the A's second shutout loss in five games and ninth this season, it's easy to see how their manager could make such an assessment.

The A's offense, despite seeming consecutive breakout games earlier this week, is in a funk. No way around that. It's such a lull that it's starting to take a toll on the A's rotation, which has not been exactly lights out of late either.

"That's something that, as a starter, you don't worry about," said right hander A.J. Griffin, who took the loss after giving up four runs, three earned, on five hits in 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out seven and walked just one. "We're going to rake."

But Griffin was again bitten by his penchant for giving up the long ball. Twice he was victimized, by a solo home run from Nelson Cruz and a two-run blast by Mitch Moreland that ended Griffin's day.

"I was dominating them with those pitches all day, and then I missed my spot and they hit it," he said. "Those guys are here for a reason."

True, Griffin has given up a major league-leading 28 homers on the season, and at least two in each of his last four starts, five of six. But that does not mean he's been pitching poorly. As in, a little help from his offense, and Griffin is in a better spot, let alone a better mood, right?

"He only made three mistakes all day," said catcher Derek Norris. "One mistake to (Adrian) Beltre, which he should have been out of the inning anyway, one mistake to Cruz, and one mistake to Moreland. Probably one of the better outings I've seen from him.

"You may think I'm crazy because of his line, but he was on location. He had his fastball command, he had his curveball command, he had his change-up command, and when it comes down to it, he just had a little bit of bad luck today with a couple of errors and a couple of dinks and they get paid to hit mistakes, and they did that."

Norris was referring specifically to the first inning, when Yoenis Cespedes dropped Ian Kinsler's two-out fly ball in left field, allowing Kinsler to move to second base before Beltre drove him in on a 1-0 slider.

And then with two out in the seventh, with Texas leading 2-0, first baseman Nate Freiman ran a long way and nearly had Craig Gentry's foul pop up, but the ball popped out of his glove for a no-play. Gentry then singled and Moreland followed up with his two-run blast to chase Griffin.

Truly, a case could be made that Griffin should have only been in a 1-0 hole through seven.

"I don't argue that," Melvin said.

"He gave up some runs but he certainly kept us in the game, pitched well enough to win the game."

All of which brings us back to the A's lackluster offense. In going just 5-5 on the 10-games-in-11-days homestand, Oakland was outscored by a cumulative 47-40, with 19 of the A's runs coming Sunday and Monday, and saw its six-game lead in the American League West over the Rangers when business opened Tuesday morning drop to 2 1/2 after Sunday's loss.

The A's have dropped consecutive home series for the first time this season and are just 1-4 over their last five games but treading water at 8-8 since the All-Star break.

And recent acquisition Alberto Callaspo is 0-for-10 with the A's, in an 0-17 skid overall and is batting .086 (4-46) since the break after hitting .271 in the first half.

Perhaps the A's offensive frustrations were best encapsulated by Josh Reddick, who put on a show slamming his bat and helmet after being robbed of a hit by Kinsler's defensive gem in the second, and striking out in the seventh.

"If anybody's hitting into worse luck, it's him," Melvin said of Reddick, who is batting .161 over his last 20 games.

But it's not all on one player. It's a team-wide phenomenon at the moment, even if Coco Crisp said it "not contagious, you can't catch it" like flu.

"The great thing is," said Norris, "we've got a day off tomorrow."

Time to recharge and try to put together a complete game on the road.