A's slide continues with walk-off loss to Rangers

Hammel's gem isn't enough as Gregerson gives up homer in ninth

A's slide continues with walk-off loss to Rangers

OAKLAND -- Scoreboard watching is typically a futile hobby for a team in control of its own destiny. But the A's are rapidly losing their grip on theirs, unable to right the ship after so many months of smooth sailing.

So there they were, just hours before game time in the visitor's clubhouse at Globe Life Park, gathered around the TV to witness the Mariners snap a losing streak in Toronto on Thursday afternoon. Looking to halt their own, the A's instead suffered another painful loss, this one a 2-1 setback against the Rangers on Adrian Beltre's walk-off homer off Luke Gregerson in the ninth inning.

It doubled as yet another microcosm of the A's disastrous second half. Their offense wasted a handful of scoring opportunities, plating their lone run on a rare safety-squeeze bunt because, well, they're struggling to get the job done any other way, leaving their pitchers to work without much support.

"They're all different, but the common denominator is we're not scoring any runs, and we're getting opportunities to do it and still not getting them in," said manager Bob Melvin. "And our pitching has been fantastic. To say pitching lost that game wouldn't be fair."

The A's magic number to clinch an American League Wild Card spot remains two against the Mariners following the loss, the club's third in a row and 19th in their last 27 games. They trail the Royals by a full game, with Seattle still lurking two games back with three to play. If Oakland and Kansas City finish the season with identical records, the Wild Card Game between them would be at Kauffman Stadium because KC holds the tiebreaker.

The A's can still clinch as soon as Friday, needing a win and a Mariners loss to the Angels to do so. But the former has become a daunting task, even against a last-place Rangers club that has taken nine of 16 from Oakland this season, including four in a row. And if the A's somehow manage to trudge right out of the postseason picture, they would become the first team in the Wild Card-era to carry baseball's best record at the All-Star break and not make the playoffs.

Though the reality of it happening seems a bit crazy, it's still plausible, and that's what's even crazier.

"We take care of our business," said Adam Dunn, "and we don't have to worry what others do."

Easier said than done.

The A's on Friday put the leadoff man on five times, and just one scored -- in the sixth, when Brandon Moss led off with a walk, advanced to third courtesy Jed Lowrie's one-out base hit and raced home on a successful squeeze bunt from Geovany Soto.

But they stranded 10 other runners and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, wasting yet another strong starting performance, this one from Jason Hammel. The right-hander allowed just one run on five hits and didn't walk a batter in six innings, fanning five along the way.

"Yeah, it's frustrating, especially when it seems like every day you get another great outing," said Dunn, who was hitless in three at-bats, including two with runners in scoring position, one with the bases loaded. "When we get the opportunity to bust it open, I'm not doing it. It's very frustrating.

"I know my job is to drive in runs, and I'm obviously not doing that, and it's killing us."

"That's a game we have to find a way to win," said Melvin. "We had too many opportunities not to score more than one run on a squeeze. We have some guys in the middle of the lineup with some numbers and we've got to drive some runs in, we're not doing it.

"Guys are pressing. They're getting up in those situations and it's not like they're not trying. They're all trying. They've all be in these situations before. But we're just as a group not coming through."

Hammel, remarkably, has received two runs of support or fewer in 11 of his 12 starts with Oakland -- and his rotation mates can empathize. A's starting pitchers have posted a 2.66 ERA over the last 21 games but are just 4-8 over that stretch. The team is 7-14.

"It's not for us to worry about," said Hammel of the pitching staff. "We have to keep grinding it out and doing our jobs. They weren't the highest-scoring offense for three-quarters of the year for nothing. It's in them. We have full confidence in them, and we have to be the guys they're leaning on in the rotation, and we have a pretty darned good one I think. We keep going out there keeping it close, we'll start to get them going our way."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.