The A's attempted not to think of such a thing heading into Friday's contest, but the Rangers made it hard not to by having their way with an Oakland pitching staff that just 24 hours prior had limited Texas to one hit. The A's will again try not to think of the standings entering Saturday afternoon's contest, all the while knowing they stand eight games back with nine remaining.
"It's obviously a tough hill to overcome, and all you can do is try to win every game we can at this point," manager Bob Geren offered. "That's been our attitude for a long time. Guys are giving it all they've got. I'm proud of their effort, and we'll continue to do that the rest of the way."
"I don't know," Kurt Suzuki said, shaking his head. "We just want to keep playing. The standings, it is what it is. You can't really think about it. You just have to go out and try to keep win games."
Friday's affair didn't get ugly until late. In fact, both teams combined for six innings of good baseball. The only Rangers runs attached to the scoreboard through six came courtesy of a second-inning homer from Vladimir Guerrero and an RBI single from Jeff Francoeur in the fourth.
Guerrero's homer -- his 28th of the season -- put an end to Texas' string of 32 innings without posting an earned run.
Even then, the A's were still in it against starter Tommy Hunter and Co. They even narrowed Texas' lead to one in the bottom half of the sixth, thanks to a run-scoring single from pinch-hitter Matt Carson.
But the flood gates opened wide in a seventh inning that saw nine Rangers batters step to the plate and five runs cross it.
First up was Francoeur, who decided to do a little more damage off Cramer by belting a homer to left field to make it 3-1. Jorge Cantu followed with a double, putting an end to the Oakland lefty's night following a season-high six-plus innings in just his third career start.
Cramer, who entered the big leagues riding an 11-start, 70 2/3-innings homerless streak, has now offered up five in his three starts with Oakland. Cramer had given up just six in 169 2/3 Minor League innings overall before his callup.
"You fall behind and throw a fastball here, they're going to get it," Cramer said. "That's what they're doing. I'm not helping my cause. I need to pitch better behind the count. I think I'm underestimating what these guys can do up here. I need to do a better job of making quality pitches and knowing your hitter. I haven't done that. It's a problem I'm going to have to try to correct."
But the homers proved to be the least of worries on a night when Texas seemingly found every which way to score. Chris Davis, pinch-running for Cantu, ultimately moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Bengie Molina off reliever Boof Bonser before racing down the third-base line on a squeeze bunt single off the bat of Julio Borbon.
Texas' 4-1 lead eventually turned into a 7-1 lead by way of a three-run double from Guerrero, who tabbed four RBIs on the night. All three of those runs were attached to Bonser, who has now yielded 13 runs in his last seven outings after not allowing any in his first two appearances with the A's.
"They're a good team," Texas' Michael Young said. "They've got good pitching. But we always knew the offensive talent we have and that we're always one big inning away. We always want to scratch and claw, but we know we're capable of one big inning."
"[Cramer] was missing some locations, and they were starting to get on him pretty good," Geren said. "Then we had a guy like Bonser who had been throwing the ball pretty well, and they got to him good. Whoever we used tonight at that point didn't work."
The "whoever" included Ross Wolf, who surrendered three more Rangers runs in the eighth inning.
The A's, meanwhile, managed very little against Hunter, who tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The Rangers' righty gave up six hits and struck out four while improving to 4-0 in five career starts against Oakland.
Cliff Pennington cut his club's deficit to five runs in the seventh with an RBI double that scored Jeremy Hermida, who enjoyed a career high-tying four-hit night. But, despite loading the bases with one out in the frame, the A's managed to end the threat without any further damage. Overall, they left 10 on base, a number not so pretty standing next to Texas' 18 hits.
"We had some chances, but obviously they had a lot more chances and did a lot more damage," Geren said. "They swung the bats extremely well tonight."
Texas' efforts officially have the A's on the brink of elimination, but that doesn't mean anyone is about ready to help the Rangers prepare the champagne.
"It is frustrating because we were in it tonight," Suzuki said. "And then they started hitting everything. Once you get rolling -- any team -- you see that hitting is contagious. It's hard to stop something like that. It's just one of those nights you have to put it behind you and move forward."