Wash, Rangers aware of tense West reality

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In a perfect baseball world for manager Ron Washington, his Texas Rangers would be running away with the American League West. In the real world, they're tied for first with the Oakland Athletics with 25 games left to play after suffering a 4-2 loss to the A's on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Washington, though, said he has no problem dealing with that reality.

"I think if we had gotten to spring training on Feb. 11 when we got down there and you'd have said at this time of the year we'd be tied for first, I think I'd have took it," Washington said. "We're not going anywhere. We ain't going no place. We're right here in Oakland, and we'll show up tomorrow and play."

The Rangers have lost three of four games, and, for the first time since Aug. 9, they have to share first place with the A's. Their offense is in a funk, and they left 11 runners on base Monday, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Their only runs came on David Murphy's two-run homer in the fifth.

Even so, Washington and his players struck a confident pose after the game.

"I think both teams are evenly matched," said designated hitter Lance Berkman, who returned to action for the first time since July 6. "I don't think either team is going to run away with this thing in the next 25 games. I think it's going to come all the way down to the wire. But, today, they just beat us. We got to come back out here tomorrow and try to win tomorrow night."

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said he has no problem being neck-and-neck with Oakland heading into the backstretch.

"We're playing OK," Beltre said. "I don't think we're playing our best baseball right now, and we are tied for first with a team that's playing really well, too.

"We'll take our chances. We have two more games to go here, and we're going to face those guys back at home three more times. I think our destiny's in our hands, so we'll see what happens."

With left-hander Derek Holland on the mound Monday, the Rangers had to like their chances against Oakland. Entering the game, he was 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA for his career against the A's. In his last start against Oakland on Aug. 4, he threw eight shutout innings in a 4-0 win at the O.co Coliseum.

This time, Holland (9-7) lasted only 4⅔ innings. He gave up a solo home run to Yoenis Cespedes in the second inning and a two-run shot to Coco Crisp in the fifth when the A's snapped a 2-2 tie. Holland gave up four runs -- three of them earned -- on five hits. He matched his season high with five walks and struck out a season-low one.

"It was horrible," Holland said of his performance. "I'm sure it wasn't fun for you guys to watch, and it definitely wasn't fun for me to be out there and pitch the way I did. It was terrible.

"The execution was terrible. I missed over the plate. I didn't hit my spots like I should have. I fell behind. I had five walks. It's not a good performance."

Berkman, who has battled knee and hip injuries this season, was activated from the disabled list Sunday and started at designated hitter against the A's. He went 0-for-4, but he hit the ball hard twice with runners in scoring position.

With one out and the bases loaded in the sixth, Berkman smoked a sinking line drive to right, but A's right fielder Chris Young raced in to make a nice catch. The ball looked deep enough for Beltre to tag and score from third, but he initially thought it was going to drop in front of Young, and he was off the base when Young caught it.

"I made a mistake there," Beltre said. "He was coming in and I thought he was going to short-hop it. I didn't want to be thrown out at home plate if he short-hopped it. I probably should have tagged and seen what happened."

With runners on first and second and two outs in the eighth, Berkman sent a deep drive to right center. Young, who moved from right to center field in the seventh, tracked that ball down, too.

"I hit both of them pretty well," Berkman said. "I can hit them better, but I definitely got most of the barrel on the ball. It just didn't work out."

In the ninth, the Rangers had runners on second and third with one out against A's closer Grant Balfour, but Ian Kinsler flew out to right, and Beltre grounded out to third.

"We're giving ourselves opportunities," Washington said. "I said before the game started that it's going to be three games of opportunities and who takes advantage of them. We put ourselves in more opportunities, we just didn't take advantage of them all."