OAKLAND -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said Eric Hurley was "tentative." Pitching coach Mark Connor referred to it as being "a little rusty" after an extended layoff. Hurley, beating himself up a little bit in the clubhouse afterward, said, "I was a little shy out there, and I paid for it." Everybody had their own description for what they saw, but they all insisted that Hurley is healthy. That was the big question after Hurley gave up six runs in the first two innings in a 6-5 loss to the Athletics on Sunday afternoon.
Hurley was on a Major League mound for the first time since June 29. Since then he had pitched once in the Minor Leagues, back on July 14. This start was delayed by a sore shoulder, but Hurley insisted that wasn't the problem on a cool, overcast afternoon in the Bay Area. "I went out there with below-average stuff and let my team down," Hurley said. "My arm felt good. I felt good out there. But you come into a game like this trying for a sweep, and you need to pitch better." The Rangers, who trailed 6-1 after two innings and just missed erasing a five-run Oakland lead for the second time in the series, didn't get the sweep and finished with a 4-5 record on the road trip. "Of course you're greedy," Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. "You want to sweep, but we came out today just trying to win this game. We weren't worried about the first two games. We just couldn't push that last run across." The Rangers have had four three-game series against the Athletics this season and all have followed the same pattern. The Rangers have won the first two games in each series, then couldn't complete the sweep. That still leaves them 8-4 on the season against a team that they were 47-68 against over the previous six seasons. But the Rangers are still 0-8 on the season in the third game of a series after they've won the first two. A three-game sweep just hasn't been there for them this season. "You're happy with two of three, but when you get a chance to win that third game you want to do it," Washington said. Instead, Hurley put the Rangers in a hole right away because he just didn't have his best fastball. It was a couple mph slower than usual and it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. "It looked like he was pitching tentatively," Washington said. "He said he's [healthy]. He said he was just missing his spots. We'll just see how it goes the next time he goes out there. It just didn't work out today." Hurley gave up three big hits. He allowed a two-run home run to Jack Cust in the first, then a two-out run-scoring double to Jack Hannahan and a three-run home run to Kurt Suzuki, both in the second. All three pitches were on fastballs. "I usually don't get beat by my fastball," Hurley said. "When I get into trouble, it's usually my offspeed stuff." Hurley originally went on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, then developed the sore shoulder. But he threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session on Friday and the Rangers deemed him ready to go. "I assumed he was ready to go and would go out and get after it," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "It just didn't work out. His fastball did have its usual life. He was a couple clicks off, but it was more location." Hurley threw only 50 pitches, but Washington saw enough with his team down, 6-1. The Rangers were down, 5-0, on Friday before rallying to win the game, and Washington still thought this one was winnable. "We didn't feel he had enough to stop them," Washington said. "They had six runs, but I didn't want them to get eight, nine or 10. That was enough. I'm trying to keep us in the ballgame." Dustin Nippert took over and pitched four scoreless innings. Jamey Wright and C.J. Wilson combined for two more. But the Rangers couldn't quite overcome that five-run climb. They did get four in the fifth off Athletics starter Dana Eveland, including three on a double by Hank Blalock. But that was as close as Texas could get on an afternoon when they were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Jerry Blevins pitched 1 1/3 innings for his first Major League victory, and Brad Ziegler followed with two scoreless innings. That gives him 27 straight scoreless innings since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento, a Major League record for most scoreless innings at the start of a career. Huston Street finished it off for the Athletics with his 18th save.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.