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OAK@SF: The A's lose on an 11th inning walk-off hit

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just across the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Giants are in some ways similar to the Oakland A's. Strong pitching. Low run-scoring. This explains their close games, even against each other.

On Sunday, it was yet another. But here at AT&T Park, the A's learned that, for now, clutch hits come from the other side of the Bay.

After the Giants' 10th-inning walk-off victory Friday, on Sunday it was Emmanuel Burriss who ruined Oakland's day, his single to right field scoring the speedy Darren Ford from second for a 5-4 loss in the 11th inning of the series finale.

The A's (22-25) dropped their fifth straight and went to 6-6 in extra-inning games this year, while the Giants (27-19), who entered with the most games decided by three runs or fewer in the Majors, have won 14 of their last 18 contests.

"It's a game of little breaks, taking advantage of things," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "They got a game-changing hit, and that was the difference."

Oakland reliever Brian Fuentes surrendered one of those hits. He entered the game in the bottom of the 11th inning, and with one out, pinch-hitter Ford lined a single to right-center field and stole second with Buster Posey batting. Fuentes intentionally walked Posey to face Burriss and set up a potential double play. Instead, Burriss drove the fastball to right field, Ryan Sweeney gunned it to catcher Kurt Suzuki, who lost the ball -- and almost his glove -- in the collision with Ford.

All this after Giants pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz tied it, 4-4, with a one-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning off Oakland reliever Grant Balfour, who had not allowed a run in his previous 14 1/3 innings over 14 appearances. Balfour had been working him outside with fastballs, and the last fastball missed the intended location.

"A guy that's been pretty much lights out just missed a pitch," Geren said of Balfour. "He was going down the way right there, just tugged it up the middle third and got it up in the wind."

A two-run, seventh-inning rally engineered by Coco Crisp and a sacrifice bunt helped the A's offense break out of a slump.

Down, 2-1, heading into the seventh, Oakland took advantage of Cliff Pennington's leadoff single against left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who began the inning in relief of starter Jonathan Sanchez. A's pitcher Gio Gonzalez moved Pennington to second on a sacrifice bunt, Crisp doubled on a line drive to left field to score Pennington, then Daric Barton grounded one just to the right of diving shortstop Mike Fontenot to score Crisp for a 3-2 lead, the A's first in the series.

Crisp and his teammates were a happy and relieved bunch in the dugout, as they had scored just two runs in the previous three games.

Oakland added what turned out to be a needed insurance run in the eighth on pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui's sacrifice fly that scored Matt Ellis from third to make it 4-2. Ellis might have been tagged out by catcher Buster Posey had Posey not lost the ball on the tag.

The Giants bullpen kept it scoreless from there, however, and that included a ninth-inning effort by closer Brian Wilson and two shutout innings by Sergio Romo (2-0), who earned the victory.

Fuentes (1-6) was tagged with the loss.

"I had a good feel for what he's throwing, but baseball is baseball, so I was pretty much just trying to get a good pitch I could hit," Burriss said. "I knew he was going to try to get ahead early, so I'm just thinking, 'Don't be afraid to go after the first pitch if it's there,' and luckily it was."

Gonzalez backed the A's with a strong start, going 6 2/3 innings, surrendering eight hits, two walks, two runs (one earned) while fanning eight.

Gonzalez hit the first batter he faced, Andres Torres, on the toe. Freddy Sanchez then ripped an RBI double past a diving Andy LaRoche, who was starting at third in place of Kevin Kouzmanoff, who is day to day with a groin strain.

With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Pat Burrell at second and Buster Posey at first, Cody Ross grounded sharply to LaRoche, whose throw to Daric Barton at first base pulled him off the bag enough that his tag of Ross was deemed a tad too late. LaRoche, who could have either tagged or thrown out Burrell, was charged with the throwing error, which allowed Posey to score and make it 2-0.

The A's entered the game with 36 errors, the second-most in the American League, and had given up 28 unearned runs, the most in the Majors.

Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez pitched six solid innings and allowed five hits, including Willingham's solo homer in the sixth that cut the San Francisco lead to 2-1. He walked two while striking out six in a 100-pitch outing.

Tougher for the A's is that their top three starting pitchers -- and the only ones healthy from the original five-man rotation -- took the mound in each game this series. Up next is a four-game series at Anaheim that begins with Josh Outman taking the hill for Oakland on Monday and another pitcher yet to be announced starting on Tuesday.

Oakland tried to put the situation in perspective.

"It's just one of those things where you have to move forward and brush it off," Gonzalez said.

Sounds good, because chances are this isn't the last time either team plays a close one.

"They did a good job of coming back," Suzuki said. "It's just one of those games."

For the Giants, that's a good thing. For the A's, that's led to a rough stretch.

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