ARLINGTON, Texas -- The A's could have left Rangers Ballpark giddy and gung-ho for the second half of their Texas road trip, but they departed town wearing a lot of clenched-teeth smiles instead.
Oakland took two of three here to win the series -- always a nice achievement against the Texas Rangers -- but with the table set to run, the A's dropped their collective fork on Wednesday in a 3-1 loss.
The A's saw their five-game win streak end, because the lineup went 0 or 10 with men in scoring position, struck out nine times and wasted a nice recovery by starter Jarrod Parker after a rocky first inning in which he surrendered three runs.
The A's essentially handed 30-year-old journeyman Ross Wolf, who hadn't pitched in the majors since a brief stint with Oakland in 2010, his first major league victory.
"I think today, more than any, we kind of did it to ourselves," outfielder Seth Smith said. "It was kind of a frustratingly uninspiring effort, I guess."
But winning two of three wasn't sufficient?
"I don't look at it that way," Smith said. "It's about today's game. The two games we won were great, but we wanted to win this game, too."
That kind of thinking is certainly in line with manager Bob Melvin's.
"Once you win two, you want to win the third," Melvin said. "There's no sense in saying, 'All right, we won the series,' and just pack it in. When you have the opportunity to sweep, that's what you want to do."
It looked like it would be one of those days when Parker allowed a leadoff single in the first, surrendered a two-run homer to David Murphy, got an out, then surrendered a long home run to Adrian Beltre to straightaway center.
But Parker pulled it together and pitched 62/3 innings of scoreless three-hit ball after the bad start.
It appeared his teammates would reward Parker for his recovery.
In the fourth, Brandon Moss' one-out sacrifice fly scored Coco Crisp with what turned out to be the A's only run. But in the fifth, more runs seemed imminent when Smith walked and Derek Norris doubled with nobody out. Alas, Eric Sogard and Adam Rosales hit back-to-back pop-ups and Crisp grounded out to squelch the threat.
Oakland opened the sixth with John Jaso drawing a walk and Yoenis Cespedes reaching on an error, but Rangers lefty reliever Neal Cotts came on and struck out Moss, Josh Donaldson and Smith in succession. In the seventh, Norris doubled again and advanced to third on a Sogard ground out. But Rosales popped out and Crisp fouled out.
The first Sogard at-bat and the two Rosales misfires definitely irked the manager the most.
"The most frustrating thing is we didn't handle the situational at-bats," Melvin said. "We could have wound up scoring two, maybe three runs, without a hit. If we handle those, we at least tie the game."
"I was just trying to get a fastball up in the zone, something I could drive to the outfield," said Rosales. "I got the high fastball, but I think I'm maybe a little too aggressive right now just wanting to get the job done."
On the bright side, there was Parker. Despite falling to 2-6 and giving up his 10th and 11th homers of the year -- he only gave up 11 last year -- he put together his second strong outing in a row.
"Those were two out of maybe five or six four-seamers I threw today, and they missed probably a little bit too much," he said. "But I did some things where I felt like I was getting back to where they were."
Parker said he's finally feeling healthy after battling neck stiffness.
"Parker pitched great after the first inning," Melvin said. "He threw a couple of early-count heaters they squared up, but then he really settled down nicely. That was good to see. We just didn't give him the support."
A's (Tommy Milone 4-5) at Houston (Erik Bedard 0-2), 5:10 p.m., CSNCA