Eric Sogard’s blooper to left field looked as if it might get the A’s even against the Texas Rangers until shortstop Elvis Andrus ran it down and made a sliding catch over his shoulder.
When Adam Rosales and Coco Crisp also made outs with the tying run at second base, the A’s lost their best chance to spoil the first major-league start by Ross Wolf, one of their former relievers.
Wolf pitched five strong innings in his first appearance since he was with Oakland in 2010, David Murphy and Adrian Beltre homered in a three-run first inning, and the Rangers avoided a sweep with a 3-1 victory against the A’s on Wednesday.
“The most frustrating thing was that we didn’t handle situational at-bats,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “We could have scored two or three more runs without a hit. Like second and third and nobody out and we couldn’t get a run in.”
After Andrus took a hit away from Sogard, Rosales hit a weak popup on the infield on the first pitch from Wolf, and Crisp grounded out to first.
“I have to get deep in the count and see more pitches,” Rosales said. “I have the ability to get deep in the count. I’m a good two-strike hitter, but I was just too aggressive.”
The 30-year-old Wolf came up from Triple-A Round Rock for a spot start after the Rangers scratched rookie Nick Tepesch because of a blister.
He beamed in front of the cameras afterward and said “awesome” a lot after escaping trouble in the fourth and fifth and getting a big boost from Neal Cotts when he was replaced in the sixth.
A year ago, Wolf (1-0) had a pregnant wife on bed rest and a boy who missed him at home while be bounced between Double-A Frisco and Round Rock in the Texas farm system.
He spent 2011 in the Houston organization after refusing a minor league assignment with Oakland at the end of the 2010 season.
“It tests your patience,” said Wolf, who was making his first big league appearance since Oct. 1, 2010, as a reliever for the A’s. “My wife gets a lot of the credit. She told me to stick with it, and thank God I did.”
Cotts, pitching a day after getting three outs on six pitches in his first game in the majors since May 25, 2009, struck out the side when he came on for Wolf with two runners on and no outs in the sixth.
The left-hander whose best season came with the Chicago White Sox when they won the World Series in 2005 escaped trouble again in the seventh, getting Rosales on a lineout and Crisp on a foul pop with a runner at third.
“He may have been here in Texas a short time, but he hasn’t been at the major league level being successful for a short time,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He’s throwing the ball the way I remember him throwing with Chicago.”
Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 14th save in 14 chances.
Andrus snapped an 0-for-10 slump with a leadoff single in the first, and Murphy followed with a homer about 10 rows into the lower porch in right field. Two batters later, Beltre hit his 10th of the season halfway up the lawn in center.
Jarrod Parker (2-6) was down 3-0 just four batters into the game, but went seven innings for Oakland, which had a five-game winning streak snapped.
The right-hander retired 11 of the next 12 Rangers after Beltre’s homer and allowed six hits with five strikeouts and one walk in seven innings.
“He threw a couple of early count heaters that they squared up,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “In the past, early in the season, that game gets away from him. It looks like he’s more comfortable now.”
Wolf, who had 25 career relief appearances, retired the first nine hitters and gave up one run with three strikeouts and two walks in five innings.
It was the second time in three days a Texas pitcher has made his first major league start after previous stints as a reliever with other teams. Josh Lindblom lost to Oakland on Monday.
The A’s scored their only run on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Moss with runners at second and third and one in the fourth against Wolf, who was 1-2 with a 2.02 ERA in Round Rock, including a 1.85 ERA in six starts.
“He really kept the ball down today,” Rosales said of Wolf. “His changeup was working really well. He seemed to go at hitters. He was aggressive.”