Blalock sparks Rangers' rally against struggling A's

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics had two eight-game
losing streaks last season. They are within one loss of having one
in 2006.

A night after blowing a seven-run lead, the A's lost their
seventh straight game when Hank Blalock's two-run single in the
eighth inning led the Texas Rangers to a 5-3 victory Friday night.

"We're in 2006. Last year was 2005," Oakland catcher Jason
Kendall said. "We're in a rut right now. We've got to scratch and
claw to get out of it."

Walks and injuries have had a lot to do with the A's problems.
On Friday night, they blew a 2-0 lead, and Blalock's big hit came
after Chad Gaudin (0-2) walked the bases loaded with two outs in
the eighth.

With five pitchers on the disabled list, the A's have had to
depend on pitchers such as Gaudin and Ron Flores, who began this
season in the minors.

With the game tied 3-3, Flores relieved Gaudin and gave up
Blalock's single to right-center that provided the winning margin.
Since rejoining the Athletics this season, Flores has allowed six
of seven inherited runners to score.

"Gaudin has been up here about a month, and Flores has faced
maybe 30 batters," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "There are
going to be plenty of opportunities, but you've got to perform up
here. Gaudin should have been out there pitching with some
confidence because he just threw the ball by four straight hitters
and struck them out."

Said Gaudin, "I felt good, just a couple of bad pitches at the
wrong time. Very frustrating."

The batters Gaudin walked were Gary Matthews Jr., who had hit a
home run two innings earlier, defending American League batting
champion Michael Young and Mark Teixeira, who drove in 144 runs in

"He was probably trying to make perfect pitches," said
Teixeira, who laid off a 2-2 pitch just off the plate.

Macha lamented, "If you walk eight guys and hit a batter,
you're not going to win. Four of their five runs were guys who

Starting pitcher Joe Blanton walked five, tying his season high,
and hit a batter.

"That is not the standard with which he pitched last June,
July, August and September," Macha said.

Even Oakland's 2-0 lead came with help from walks. Eric Chavez,
who drove in two runs, led off the second inning with a homer.
Rangers starter John Koronka walked three batters, including Frank
Thomas with the bases loaded, to force in a third-inning run.

"What killed me was the leadoff walk to Kendall," Koronka
said. "After that, I still felt I could throw the ball well."

Koronka didn't walk another batter after Thomas. The left-hander
pitched through the seventh inning, retiring the last eight batters
he faced. Francisco Cordero (4-3) gave up a run on Chavez's
sacrifice fly in the eighth, then Akinori Otsuka pitched a 1-2-3
ninth for his seventh save.

The Rangers scored runs in the fourth and fifth, with walks
preceding run-scoring doubles by Rod Barajas and Mark DeRosa.
Matthews' fourth homer put Texas ahead briefly 4-3.

"Look at the runs they got," Macha said. "Joe walks a guy,
then gives up a double on an 0-2 pitch to Barajas. We're lucky the
score wasn't worse. They stranded 12 men."

The loss dropped Oakland three games behind first-place Texas in
the American League West.

"We've got to get guys healthy, make better pitches and get
some better performances," Macha said.

Game notes
Texas' starting lineup included five players batting .300
or better; Oakland's had none although Nick Swisher's two hits
moved him above .300. ... Blanton needed 107 pitches to get through
five innings. ... Texas had one hit in each inning.