OAKLAND — The Detroit Tigers may be leading the American League Central, but the A's will welcome them with open arms tonight for the start of a three-game series.
Anything to leave National League competition in the rear-view mirror.
The Colorado Rockies completed a three-game sweep of the A's with a 3-1 victory Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum.
Interleague play traditionally has treated the A's well, but they wobbled to a 5-13 record against the NL this season. They've lost five straight and find themselves a season-high 12 games under .500 at 31-43.
"You had (Colorado) playing so well coming in here and us playing bad," A's infielder Adam Kennedy said. "That's what happened out there — we got swept."
Much as Saturday night's defeat played out, the A's rallied in the ninth inning before having their hopes defused by Colorado closer Huston Street, who saved all three victories against his former team.
Oakland trailed 3-0 entering the ninth. But consecutive singles from Kurt Suzuki, Orlando Cabrera and Ryan Sweeney made it 3-1 and gave the A's runners on the corners with no outs.
Street, who replaced starter Aaron Cook after Suzuki's single, ended the game by striking out pinch hitter Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Ellis, and retiring Kennedy on a fly to left.
Street wasn't the only ex-Athletic who hurt Oakland. Carlos Gonzalez reached base in all four plate appearances. He also threw out Jason Giambi with a perfect throw from left field as Giambi tried to stretch out a double in the eighth. Gonzalez nailed Matt Holliday at the plate Saturday with a good throw from center.
But the A's main problem Sunday was not cashing in against Cook earlier in the game. They finished 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
Jack Cust has 12 strikeouts in his past five games. Giambi has the American League's lowest batting average at .203. But the blame for the offensive inconsistency can be spread up and down the lineup.
"It's been frustrating for all of us," general manager Billy Beane said. "The players are working hard. (Hitting coach) Jim (Skaalen) is working hard. If we knew what the reason was, we'd have fixed it already."
Compounding matters Sunday was the A's bad luck. Most balls they hit hard were right at people. During Ellis' at-bat in the ninth, he lined a ball down the left-field line that landed just inches foul.
"I couldn't believe it, it just kept hooking," Ellis said. "I think Ryan would have scored from first base with his speed, and we'd have tied the game."
One bright spot for the A's was Ellis' return to second base after spending two months on the disabled list. He doubled in the fifth inning as part of a 1-for-4 day and had a couple of adventures in the field.
Cust collided with him in shallow right as Ellis hauled in a pop-up in the sixth. In the ninth, Ellis lost a pop fly in the sun, which ended up falling between him and shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
"I tried to tell Orlando, but I'm sure my English wasn't very good at that time," Ellis said. "I was a little panicked."
Kennedy, who played second in Ellis' absence, made his first major league start at third base and was tested right away. He made a nice bare-hand pickup and throw on Troy Tulowitzki's bunt in the second, although Tulowitzki beat it out.
Kennedy also snared a sharp liner off Tulowitzki's bat in the eighth.
Contact Joe Stiglich at email@example.com.