"He just mixed pitches," said A's second baseman Jemile Weeks. "He mixed pitches well today. They made some good plays on defense also, and he did his job. We didn't capitalize in certain situations, so you usually end up in a close ballgame like that."
Oakland did get its first two runners on in the fourth inning when right fielder Josh Reddick was hit by a fastball and designated hitter Jonny Gomes followed with a single. But the next three batters hit routine grounders to the left side of the infield, allowing Richard to escape unscathed.
Just one A's runner reached third base against Richard. That happened in the sixth inning, when the team landed runners on the corners with two outs. First baseman Brandon Moss, who's been a pleasant surprise in his first 11 games with the team, grounded out to end the threat against Richard, who finished with 115 pitches.
"If he gets Gomes out [in the eighth inning], I probably let him start the ninth," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He was throwing that well. Clayton was outstanding today."
When Black did finally turn the game over to his bullpen, closer Huston Street nearly faltered against an Oakland lineup that finally came alive. Pitching with a 2-0 lead thanks to an insurance run scored off right-hander Ryan Cook in the ninth, Street -- a former A's closer -- walked two batters and allowed an RBI single to center fielder Coco Crisp, his second hit of the day.
"Certainly we want to be able to put together a fight, which we did, and I really thought we were going to win that game after Coco got the hit," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Actually, when we got Coco to the plate, I felt pretty good about us winning the game."
But while the A's showed resiliency, the team was unable to complete what would've been a second straight comeback victory. Weeks struck out swinging on a fastball to end the game.
On the bright side for Oakland, the team's bullpen, forced into duty early when starting pitcher Bartolo Colon left in the third inning after straining his right oblique while fielding a bunt, turned in a quality performance. Left-hander Pedro Figueroa was impressive in his first action since being called up Sunday, allowing one hit and no runs in three innings.
Melvin said Figueroa's lengthy outing was especially key since he had several relievers unavailable to pitch. The only arms he felt comfortable using were right-hander Jim Miller and lefty Jerry Blevins, both of whom came into the game, and Melvin only wanted to use Cook if the A's found themselves in a position where they needed their late-inning ace.
"Based on where we were and Colon coming out so early, [the] bullpen did a great job," Melvin said.
But Figueroa allowed one of the two runners that he inherited from Colon to score, as Alexi Amarista advanced home easily from third while the A's had Everth Cabrera caught in a pickle off second base. And Cook's wild pitch in the ninth meant he allowed an inherited runner to score for the first time this season.
San Diego had success off the A's bullpen on Saturday, too. The difference in that game was that Oakland's still-powerful offense was able to answer with some runs of its own. That didn't happen on Sunday, as the team narrowly avoided its Major League-leading 12th shutout.
"If you go back and look at that game, a lot of guys put the ball in play fairly decent. It's just the difference was it went right to somebody," said third baseman Brandon Inge. "We could've easily scored 10 runs today. It's not like we were striking out all over the place, we were just hitting the ball at people. It's baseball."