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TEX@OAK: Willingham crushes one over left-field wall

OAKLAND -- A's lefty Brett Anderson gave away three home runs to the Rangers on Saturday, marking the sixth time he's surrendered multiple long balls in a game in his career.

That career spans 55 starts, and Anderson can't remember any of the first 54 playing out as badly as Saturday's showing, which included a career-high-tying seven earned runs and four walks in just five innings in an 11-2 loss to Texas.

"It was probably the worst stuff I've ever had dating back to high school," Anderson said. "Just terrible. It's almost embarrassing and comical."

Before Saturday, the long ball had typically been a rare sighting in Oakland.

The A's entered the contest having only hit 11. Their starting pitchers, meanwhile, had done their part in offering up just eight. Both numbers -- measured on different spectra, of course -- represented the fewest in the Majors.

Oakland added two to its slowly growing total against Texas hurler Colby Lewis via solo shots from Kurt Suzuki and Josh Willingham, their second and fourth of the season, respectively. But it was Anderson bumping up the other number -- courtesy of a two-run homer from Michael Young, a three-run shot from Nelson Cruz and a solo blast from Mike Napoli -- that proved costly.

"It was pretty much the perfect storm of everything bad," Anderson said. "Stuff was bad, command was bad, just a bad day."

In his previous five outings, Anderson had managed to stay away from the homer and had given up a combined six earned runs. He had also walked just four total and no more than one in each outing. But he said he was without his bread-and-butter pitch -- his lethal breaking ball -- and had no command of a usually crisp fastball.

As a result, the 23-year-old lefty is now 1-3 with a 6.49 ERA in six career starts against the Rangers, who are 11-3 this season when tallying at least one home run.

"We came in and faced another tough pitcher and wanted to make sure we had a better approach as a team," said Texas' Young, who watched Friday starter Trevor Cahill pitch seven shutout innings. "Without getting too specific, we just wanted to bear down and attack pitches in the zone, have a game plan and stay with it.

"We know he's a very good pitcher. We wanted to make sure we swung at strikes. The last thing we want to do when facing a good pitcher is help him by chasing pitches out of the strike zone."

Young's home run in the third inning was the first Anderson allowed in 36 2/3 frames to open the season.

"A little bit out of character for our starter to have a rough game like that," A's manager Bob Geren said. "They've been on such a nice streak. Brett, himself, had been outstanding. Today, it was a struggle from the beginning. His strike-to-ball ratio was down from normal, and his strikes weren't as crisp and in as great a location as normal.

"He had to fight through it and never really found a rhythm or a groove. It was a rough one -- the first one in a long time, so we throw that one out."

Oakland's loss put the club at 13-14 to close out the month of April, as the defeat prevented it from entering May above the .500 mark -- a topic of which Geren dissected before the first pitch was even thrown on Saturday.

"You can look at the month two different ways," he said. "If you want to be a glass half-full guy, you could say to play near .500 without hitting at all is a great sign. Or you could say with the pitching we had, if you're a glass half-empty guy, we should be better than .500. It's usually in the middle, and we fully anticipate swinging the bats better and playing better defense.

"Our pitching has been fantastic, so to keep that pace up for five more months isn't something we can't do, but it's something we can't rely on. We have to pick it up offensively and defensively to help them."

That very notion, that Oakland's starters -- despite boasting a 2.77 ERA -- can't carry all the weight, that a sluggish offense needs to be anything but that, was on display just hours later.

Aside from Suzuki and Willingham's home runs, the A's collected just four other hits against Texas starter Colby Lewis, who gave the Rangers eight solid innings of work while striking out six and walking just one to earn his second win of the season.

"He had been coming off a couple of poor starts, so I thought we'd get more runs than we did," Geren said. "We had a couple loud contacts, but we didn't string anything together at all."

"He changed speeds," Suzuki said. "He's got some deception. He's going to throw strikes, make you swing the bat, make you put the ball in play, and we just really didn't do a whole lot of that today."

Anderson, meanwhile, found a small dose of comfort following a day during which "everything bad that could go wrong did."

"The only thing I can take solace in is that it's going to be better next time," he said.

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