OAKLAND -- The A's have taken comfort this season in the fact that the huge majority of home runs surrendered by starter A.J. Griffin are solo shots.
That does start to wear thin, though, particularly in the wake of a 4-0 loss to Texas on Sunday that brought the Rangers to within 21/2 games of first-place Oakland in the American League West.
Griffin gave up two homers, the first to Nelson Cruz with no one on base and the second to Mitch Moreland with one man on. He has allowed a major league-high 28 homers this season. If only his solo homers were counted -- with 20 -- he'd still rank in the top 10 in the A.L.
And the person the home runs are wearing thinnest with is Griffin himself. Every five games, the questions are the same. Why all the homers? What's going on? What changes have to be made?
In eight of his last nine starts he has allowed six hits or fewer, but 13 of the hits have been homers. In that same stretch, he has walked only 10, including one Sunday.
"It's always the same," Griffin said. "I'm generally giving up three to five hits per game. I threw some pitches today they could hit for homers. But in the past few games, it's been 'How did they hit that one?' They're hitting pitches that almost bounce.
"I'm not here to make excuses. But it is frustrating."
Because Griffin is generally pitching well enough -- his ERA is 3.91 -- even his teammates aren't quite tuned in to the level of powerball being played off Griffin's pitches.
Asked about the homers, Sunday catcher Derek Norris said, "It wouldn't be a concern unless he was leading the league or something."
Well, he is leading the league. In his last four starts alone he's allowed 10 homers.
"We've been talking about it for a while now," manager Bob Melvin said. "Today there was a slider (to Cruz) that got more of the plate than he wanted. But it's the Moreland one he'd like to have back. The thing is, he's not pitching poorly."
There's a case to be made for Griffin giving up just one run Sunday -- Cruz's leadoff homer in the second. Adrian Beltre's RBI single in the first wouldn't have happened had left fielder Yoenis Cespedes held on to a fly ball hit by Ian Kinsler with two out. And Moreland would never have gotten a chance to go deep if first baseman Nate Freiman had held on to Craig Gentry's foul fly ball.
The A's are in first place, to be sure, but they aren't playing particularly well once you get past the pitching. The offense has scored two or fewer runs in 11 of their last 27 games. It's only due to some above average pitching that the A's won three of those games.
And the defense has been problematic, too, as Sunday's performance attests. It's no way to make a push for the pennant, as third baseman Josh Donaldson admits.
"If there is a frustration here, it's that we are not playing clean games," Donaldson said. "I'm talking defensively, offensively. We need to score more.
"But overall everybody here understands that we have a good team and if we play our style of baseball, we'll win. We just need to head out on the road (a six-game trip begins Tuesday in Cincinnati) and start doing it."
The wild card in an Oakland-Texas race to the playoffs in the A.L. West is not necessarily wearing an Oakland uniform. The Rangers could learn as early as Monday that Cruz has been suspended for 50 games in connection with the Biogenesis case involving performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz could accept the suspension or appeal.
The A's probably won't be impacted by the Biogenesis fallout. A's starter Bartolo Colon received a 50-game suspension last season and is not expected to be penalized twice.