Texas 4, Oakland 2 (WPA Graph from Fangraphs)
A's Current Record: 13-14
The A's have now lost 6 of 7 to drop out of first place (a perch they held since the 2nd day of the season) and below .500 for the first time since they were 0-1. On top of that, they've seen injuries to their two best starting pitchers and arguably their two most valuable hitters (Suzuki and Ellis). Needless to say, it is not a sunny time to be an A's fan at this moment.
The return of Rich Harden to the Coliseum mound didn't help matters at all, as the injury-plagued (and until last night, control-challenged) Canadian rediscovered his old form to absolutely dominate the A's, allowing just 2 hits and an error in 7 innings. The only thing stopping him from 7 perfect innings were Michael Young's positioning on Rajai Davis's double and Eric Chavez's single and his own strange missed first base play on Chavez in the 2nd.* Harden came into the game with a league-high 23 walks in 23.2 innings and his velocity had been down since prior years, so I was feeling okay about the A's chances to draw some walks and put some runs on the board. Nope --- Harden's command was spot-on and his fastball hit 95 MPH and he even threw some sliders after spending much of his time in Chicago as a fastball/change-up pitcher. The two guys leftover from the Harden deal, Eric Patterson and Josh Donaldson were a combined 0 for 4 with 3 Ks against him.
*Not to pull a Joe Posnanski here with the asterisk, but how many times have you ever seen an umpire reverse his call? Originally Chavez was called out but after Bob Geren came out to argue, the umpires conferenced and determined (correctly) that Harden never stepped on first base. Not that it ended up mattering, but that was the A's only runner in the first 5.1 innings.
Dallas Braden gave the A's a very Dallas Bradenesque start -- since striking out 10 in his first start, Braden has combined to strike out 12 in the five starts since. But he doesn't walk guys, has limited the home run ball and has now posted 5 quality starts out of 6 and is looking more and more like a reliable #3 type of starter. Tyson Ross also looked impressive in defusing an 8th inning rally (after Geren left Braden in a little too long for some reason).
Kevin Kouzmanoff broke up the shutout with a 2 run bomb in the 9th and the A's offered a little false hope before Neftali Feliz came in with his 99 MPH heat and made Eric Patterson and Jake Fox look silly. The offense though has scored just 17 runs in the past 6 games and as good as the A's pitching has been, that's not gonna cut it. Especially now with their #6 and #7 starters in the rotation for what might be awhile.