OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin had a feeling his team, which scored just nine runs over its last six games entering Wednesday, would break out offensively in its second matchup against the Marlins.
But Melvin's intuition proved to be wrong, and it was more of the same from Oakland's bats as the A's anemic offense continued to struggle in a 3-0 loss to the Marlins.
"We didn't have much to show for some pretty good at-bats, and we did hit some balls hard, which will add to the frustration," Melvin said. "But you just work through it, you have no choice."
The A's were flustered by Florida's Ricky Nolasco, who pitched a shutout and held the A's to five hits while getting help from some stout defense, including two catches at the wall from right fielder Mike Stanton.
Nolasco's counterpart, Guillermo Moscoso, fresh off a tough-luck no-decision against the Phillies, again ran into some unfortunate luck. Moscoso tossed six innings and gave up just one earned run while striking out a career-high eight and surrendering no walks. But the Marlins managed to score three runs, all of which came on home runs, as he dropped his fourth straight decision.
"The numbers look a little skewed when, one, we don't do anything offensively and, two, when two of the hits he gives up are home runs," Melvin said. "Once again, he battled and pitched well enough to keep you in a ballgame."
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez took Moscoso deep in a first inning that saw the righty throw 25 pitches. After Emilio Bonifacio led off by reaching on a Cliff Pennington error, Ramirez crushed his fifth home run of the year to center field to put the Marlins on top, 2-0.
"It was a mistake," Moscoso said. "I was making the right pitches tonight and was commanding my zone pretty well. The first homer, it was a curveball I left back door. It was a homer. I don't really care, I tried to be focused on the game and go deep into the game."
The A's threatened to cut into the lead in the bottom of the frame when Nolasco loaded the bases by giving up two hits and walking Conor Jackson. But Oakland came away empty-handed after Ryan Sweeney flied out to center field.
The Marlins struck again off Moscoso (2-4) in the fourth when Logan Morrison hit a shot to right field to extend the lead to 3-0.
After the blown opportunity in the first, the A's got only four more runners on base against Nolasco over the next eight innings -- a David DeJesus walk in the second, a seventh-inning single from Sweeney that was washed away by a double play one batter later and hits in each of the final two frames.
Nolasco (5-4) retired 24 of the last 28 batters he faced to help the Marlins improve their dismal June record to 4-23 and snap the A's six-game home winning streak. The righty, who played with injured A's left fielder Josh Willingham when the slugger was still with the Marlins, said he switched up his usual soft-tossing tendencies because he expected Willingham to give the A's a detailed scouting report.
"I threw a lot of fastballs," Nolasco said. "I just tried to stay hard and was able to locate fastballs in and out. Just tried to challenge them and stay aggressive. They swang early, and I was just trying to use that to my advantage and keep getting ground balls. We made some really good defensive plays out there to help us out. I'll take it."
"We just couldn't muster up anything," A's catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Nolasco, he threw a great game. He kept us off balance, kept the ball off the middle of the plate. Some games you got to tip your hat. But at the plate, as a team, as a whole, we're battling up there. We're having good at-bats, it's just a matter of time before we start clicking."
While Melvin was optimistic entering Wednesday's game, the lack of production didn't do much to break it after the game. However, it did prompt the A's skipper to announce a lineup change heading into Thursday's rubber match. Melvin said rookie Chris Carter will make his first start of the season in the series finale.
The slugger, who was called up from Triple-A Sacramento during the team's recent six-game road trip, will start at designated hitter and Hideki Matsui will shift to left field, a move Melvin hopes will prove to be a catalyst to one of the Majors' worst offenses.
"I don't know if that's a mad-scientist move," Melvin said, "but we have to try to do something to get some production in the middle."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.