The usually patient Oakland A’s evolved Saturday afternoon before Matt Garza’s eyes.
Instead of taking his pitches as they did in a loss July 3 and as they often do against any pitcher, they jumped Garza in the first inning with a bunt hit, a sacrifice bunt, a single, a home run and another single in the span of his first 10 pitches of the game.
The resulting 3-0 hole was too big for another Texas Rangers escape, and Garza lost for the first time with his new team in a 4-2 defeat that snapped the Rangers’ five-game winning streak.
Garza afterward tipped his cap to the A’s for their adaptability, promising to be the one who makes the adjustment next time he faces the team that now leads the Rangers by 3 1/2 games in the American League West.
But the right-hander, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 22, also wasn’t thrilled by the small-ball approach, which resulted in some terse words for Eric Sogard after a seventh-inning squeeze play gave the A’s their final run.
“I asked where’s a good place to eat in Oakland,” Garza said. “They showed me how they were going to play and how they were going to attack me, and that’s fine. Next time, I’ll be ready. That’s it.
“They had a big first inning. It’s always tough when you put your guys three in the hole. I gave up three runs and four hits in the first five hitters and throw only 10 pitches. I was throwing strikes. It is what it is. I just had to grind it out the rest of the way.”
Garza went the distance, allowing eight hits in eight innings and striking out five. But he needed 22 pitches in the first inning, which started with a bunt hit by Coco Crisp and a sacrifice by Eric Sogard on the first pitch.
Jed Lowrie singled on the next pitch for a 1-0 lead, and Yoenis Cespedes drove a slider down in the zone up and over the wall in left-center field.
“Back-to-back bunts in the first inning, and that from there let me know they were going to play small ball the rest of the day,” Garza said. “Cespedes hits that rocket shot — it kind of carried out — and you just kind of go from there.”
Brandon Moss followed with a single, but Garza (1-1 with Texas, 7-2 overall) retired the next nine A’s and 12 of the next 13 as the Rangers climbed within 3-2 against Jarrod Parker (7-6).
Adrian Beltre delivered a two-out RBI single in the third, and Ian Kinsler launched a one-out solo homer in the fifth. The Rangers, though, went 1 for 7 against Parker with runners in scoring position, including three misses after Leonys Martin started the game with a double.
“We had some chances,” said manager Ron Washington, who was denied the franchise’s all-time win mark in his first chance to pass Bobby Valentine. “You can’t chase them all in.”
The Rangers managed only one hit after Kinsler’s homer, a two-out single by Elvis Andrus in the seventh. Andrus stole second, but Sean Doolittle struck out Kinsler to snuff out the threat.
The A’s then added some cushion in the seventh and ticked off Garza. But he was his own worst enemy by issuing a leadoff walk, the only free pass he allowed, to Alberto Callaspo.
A bunt by Stephen Vogt moved Callaspo to second, and he went to third on a Crisp single just in front of right fielder Nelson Cruz. Sogard then laid down the first pitch from Garza for a 4-2 lead.
Garza had a few colorful words for Sogard as he went back to the bench.
“He didn’t respond,” Garza said.
The goal now for the Rangers is to return to O.co Coliseum on Sunday to try to win the series and keep the heat on the A’s. Derek Holland, who is 5-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his past eight starts on the road, gets the start for the Rangers.
“These are some big games right now,” Holland said. “We can make up some big ground right now on Oakland. It could be a turning point, and maybe we can take off.”