OAKLAND -- The play was out of the Rangers' past, a vision of one of the most pivotal plays in club history. Those who remember the 1996 division playoff against the New York Yankees remember that Ken Hill had the same play in the second inning of Game 2 and also made an errant throw. The Rangers didn't get the crucial double play and it cost them a crucial run in a crucial game that was eventually decided in extra innings. There was far less at stake on a Wednesday afternoon, but an errant throw to second by starter Kevin Millwood proved to be one of the crucial plays in an inning that ruined the Rangers' afternoon.
Millwood allowed four runs in the second, and the Rangers couldn't come back against Athletics starter Lenny DiNardo as their three-game winning streak came to an end with a 6-0 loss at McAfee Coliseum. The Rangers still took two of three from the Athletics as they return home to face the Cleveland Indians on Thursday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "Overall, it's good when you can do that on the road," shortstop Michael Young said. "But you win the first two games, the last thing you want to do is be content with taking two of three. The A's played a good game today, but that's not to say we're satisfied." Millwood was terrific for five no-hit innings on Wednesday. In those five innings he faced the minimum of 15 hitters and allowed just one hit by pitch. But it was the second inning was the difference on an afternoon. DiNardo, used more as a reliever than a starter in his career, is only in the Athletics rotation because of the high number of injuries to their pitching staff, but he's handled both roles well this year, and handled the Rangers with ease on Wednesday. "He had it going," Rangers catcher Adam Melhuse said. "He's kind of funky with his delivery and difficult to pick up. He changes speeds well and keeps guys off-balance. That's what he did today." Millwood got in trouble in the second by giving up a leadoff walk to Nick Swisher and a single to Mark Ellis that put runners on first and second. Then came the pivotal play of the inning. Mark Kotsay hit a comebacker to the mound that Millwood grabbed, then fired to second to start the double play. But his throw was high and Young had to leap to catch it. He came down before Ellis came sliding in, but second-base umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Young's foot was not on the bag. "I came down on the bag, but he's got a tough angle," Young said. "Sometimes that stuff happens. The umpire has a tough job, and that's not an easy angle. It would have been nice to get that out, but it's no big deal." A better throw and the Rangers might have turned a double play. Instead, the Athletics had the bases loaded with nobody out. "It wasn't a good throw, but he was still out," Millwood said. "But even if he's still out, they probably still score one or two, and that would have been enough today." The Rangers don't know what might have been, just as they don't when they review what happened in 1996. But what did happen on Thursday wasn't good. Marco Scutaro singled to score one run and Bobby Crosby walked to force in a second run. Millwood struck out Kurt Suzuki, but Travis Buck scored one run with a sacrifice fly, and Shannon Stewart made it 4-0 with a bloop single just out of the reach of second baseman Desi Relaford. "I made some good pitches, but I didn't get a couple of calls or they hit them and found a hole," Millwood said. "There's not a whole lot you can do. But I still feel like I threw the ball well. It's not a step back." Millwood is still 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA in his last seven starts, lowering his ERA from 7.82 to 5.50. He just couldn't stay with DiNardo on Wednesday and a throw to second base was just as costly as anything he delivered to home plate.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.