Francisco's first run sends Texas to loss

Francisco's first run sends Texas to loss

ARLINGTON -- Frank Francisco's magical ride came to a sour end on Sunday afternoon, and so did the Rangers' magnificent month of May.

Francisco, who had not given up an earned run in his last 30 appearances going back to Aug. 18, 2008, did so on Sunday at a most inopportune moment. Called in to preserve a tie game and allow the Rangers to complete a gritty comeback, Francisco instead gave up a home run to Adam Kennedy with one out in the ninth inning that gave the Athletics a 5-4 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Rangers, who lead the American League West by 4 1/2 games, trailed 4-0 with nine outs to go, but scored two in the seventh and two in the eighth to tie the game. They also had the best of the back end of their bullpen to finish the comeback.

"We'll take those odds all day long," third baseman Michael Young said. "Frankie has been lights out all year long. We expect him to be great, they just got a big home run off him. If we have that situation again, I like our chances."

Francisco had not allowed a run in 17 2/3 innings this season, the most innings this season by a Major League pitcher without giving up a run.

"Fastball down the middle," Francisco said an hour after the game was over.

"We can't expect him to be perfect," outfielder David Murphy said. "We're disappointed with the way it happened, but by no means did we expect him to be scoreless the entire season. He's allowed to make a mistake now and then."

The loss ends the Rangers' three-game winning streak, but they still went 20-9 in May, the second winningest month in club history.

"We're not dumping champagne on our head because we had a good May, but we are making progress," Young said. "We're getting better and we're finding ways to attack our weaknesses. I expect that to continue."

Rangers manager Ron Washington had a fully rested bullpen ready for both the ninth inning and extra frames. Jason Jennings, C.J. Wilson, Darren O'Day and Francisco were all ready to go if needed. Washington just wanted one scoreless inning with his closer and then would take a shot to win it in the ninth.

"In a tie game, it's either bring in your closer or not use him," Washington said.

Athletics manager Bob Geren, who was already deep into the back end of his bullpen by having used both Michael Wuertz and Andrew Bailey, knew the Rangers were in good position.

"When they bring in a guy who hasn't allowed a run backed up by Wilson, you think you've got to score two to beat them," Geren said. "Emotionally, it was big to win against a guy who hasn't given up a run this season. That guy has a good arm and a good offspeed pitch. He is one of the best closers in the game."

The Rangers spent the first six innings of the afternoon totally baffled by Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden. He allowed just three hits through those six frames while Rangers starter Kevin Millwood gave up a home run to Kennedy in the first and Jason Giambi in the sixth. The home run by Giambi was his 37th against the Rangers in his career, most for any active player.

Millwood was gone after six, having thrown 116 pitches, and was not involved in the decision. After carrying the Rangers' pitching staff in April, he finished May at 2-2 with a 4.28 ERA. He does not have a win in his last three starts and just one in his last five starts.

"I was just a little inconsistent out there," Millwood said. "I threw too many pitches, especially in the first and second inning, that ran me out of gas. I still feel like I'm pitching well but not getting the results. It is what it is. All I can do is control what I can control and not worry about anything else."

Millwood left trailing, 2-0, against Braden. The Athletics scored two more off Derek Holland to make it 4-0 before the Rangers struck back with a two-run double from Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the bottom of the seventh.

They tied it in the bottom of the eighth after Young led off with an infield hit and Nelson Cruz drew a one-out walk against Wuertz. Bailey took over, but singles by Hank Blalock and Marlon Byrd tied the game. Bailey kept it that way by striking out Murphy and getting Saltalamacchia on a popout.

That left it tied and, for once, Francisco couldn't keep it there.

Said Washington, "We'd like him to be perfect, but there's no perfection in baseball."

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