Rangers let late lead slip away in loss to A's

Rangers let late lead slip away in loss to A's

Rangers let late lead slip away in loss to A's
OAKLAND -- Colby Lewis is back in the Rangers' rotation but still experiencing some tightness in his right forearm. Alexi Ogando is back in the Rangers' bullpen, but still working on his command.

Those were just a couple of issues the Rangers were dealing with on a Wednesday afternoon that came crashing in the bottom of the ninth at the Coliseum. Athletics infielder Brandon Hicks hit a 1-1 changeup from Rangers reliever Michael Kirkman deep over the right-center field wall for a walk-off home run that gave his team a 4-3 victory.

The Rangers led, 3-1, going into the bottom of the seventh, but couldn't put this one away. Instead, their bullpen suffered its first blown save since May 17.

"It's frustrating, but what are you going to do?" outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "It happens."

"Every time you lose in your division it's tough," outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "We played really good today and had the lead we wanted. We just couldn't close it down."

Added manager Ron Washington, "They took it, we didn't give it away. We had the right people where we wanted them. We just didn't get it done."

Lewis, who had been sidelined since June 23 with tightness in his right forearm was effective in his return to the rotation, holding the A's to one run in five innings. But he started feeling some tightness and the Rangers didn't take any chances.

"In the fourth and fifth inning, they started to hit him," Washington said. "He was getting the ball up and they worked him pretty good. I felt like we were at the point of the game where we were ready to go to the best part of our bullpen."

Lewis, who allowed three hits, two walks and struck out three, is scheduled to start on Tuesday against the Red Sox. Lewis said he's not too concerned about experiencing more tightness.

"I felt pretty good, it just tightened up on me a little bit," Lewis said. "It's nothing to be concerned about. This is something to build on going forward."

Lewis, after giving up a home run to Brandon Inge, left with the game tied. The Rangers then took a 3-1 lead in the sixth on RBI singles by Michael Young and Cruz. But the Rangers couldn't keep it there.

Robbie Ross took over for Lewis in the sixth and pitched a scoreless inning, extending his scoreless innings streak to 24. But that streak came to an end in the seventh after he gave up a leadoff double to Inge. Alexi Ogando, in his second outing since coming off the disabled list, took over and walked pinch-hitter Chris Carter.

"The last thing I want to do in that situation is put a runner on base," Ogando said. "I still feel uncomfortable locating, but I feel I'm coming around."

After Hicks ran for Carter, Ogando did get Coco Crisp to pop out trying to bunt and Jemile Weeks flied out. But Josh Reddick doubled off the right-field wall just above Cruz's leaping reach to drive home both runners and tie the game.

"When he hit it, I thought I had a shot," Cruz said. "We were playing 'no doubles.' I got a chance to get back to the wall and jump. I did what I could. I got close. I don't know how close."

Cruz doubled to lead off the ninth for the Rangers against All-Star reliever Ryan Cook. But he didn't get any farther than second base. Mike Napoli struck out. David Murphy, pinch-hitting for Brandon Snyder, was intentionally walked before Cook got Craig Gentry to pop out and Ian Kinsler to fly out.

That brought up Hicks to lead off the ninth. Kirkman had pitched a scoreless eighth and Washington had closer Joe Nathan warmed up in case the Rangers led going into the bottom of the ninth. But with the score tied, he stayed with Kirkman. Hicks was batting in the ninth spot and was followed by two switch-hitters: Crisp and Weeks. Washington said he wanted both hitting from the right side.

"I felt when we got to the top of their order, we wanted to turn them around," Washington said.

Hicks, who was called up from the Minors on June 23 and was hitting .147, had never hit a home run in the Majors. But Oakland manager Bob Melvin liked the idea of him facing Kirkman.

"You know what, the inning before, I was thinking if they send Kirkman back out there it was a good matchup for him," Melvin said. "I don't know if I was thinking walk-off home run, but I thought it was a good matchup for him."

In other words, Melvin was looking forward to a matchup between a batter with a .147 average and a pitcher who had held opponents to a .135 average before that inning. Melvin was right and the top of the order never got up. Hicks took one fastball, fouled off another and then ended it with one swing of the bat.

"The first pitch was a fastball that just missed down," Kirkman said. "I got him to pull off another fastball and I felt I could get him out front on a changeup. He was right on it. It was a little up. It was on the outside corner, a little up."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.