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OAK@TEX: Cahill fans Hamilton to get out of the third

ARLINGTON -- Josh Willingham stood by his locker after another loss to the Rangers and answered a flurry of questions he didn't appear crazy about, because that's what baseball players do sometimes.

Is he frustrated? Yes, very. Is he looking forward to the All-Star break? Yes. Will the A's turn it around on offense in the second half? As a team, he said, they have to believe they can.

The latter was probably the toughest question after the A's pieced together six singles and didn't get a runner past second base in a 2-0 loss to the American League West-leading Rangers on Sunday afternoon, as Major League Baseball hit its All-Star break.

That was enough to hand Trevor Cahill a loss on a day when he had his sinker going, except for one pitch he left up to Rangers cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre. That fastball stayed up and over the middle of the plate, and Beltre sent it over the center-field fence for a two-out, two-run home run in the sixth inning.

The A's got three runners on base in the last three innings, one on an error. They had two singles in the eighth inning, but one of those runners was erased on a double play, and another was caught stealing.

The A's reached the break with a league-low 50 home runs. They were shut out for the 11th time on the season, the most in the American League. Those are tough numbers, but Willingham said the A's can turn things around because several starters are having seasons well below their career numbers.

"If I didn't have confidence, I wouldn't be playing the game," Willingham said. "You have to have confidence in yourself."

The break could serve the A's well. They were swept in four games in Texas and limped into the All-Star break with a 39-53 record, 12 games out of first place.

Cahill certainly didn't deserve to lose. He allowed five hits on a sweltering day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He had 5 2/3 shutout innings under his belt before he walked Josh Hamilton. Cahill then fell behind Beltre with a 1-0 count before leaving a fastball up over the middle of the plate. Beltre crushed it for for a 2-0 lead.

"Trevor pitched great," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "The one pitch he got beat on he was trying to throw a backdoor sinker, and he got it up and over the plate. One swing ended up costing us."

Cahill was cruising before the walk and two-run home run, retiring nine Rangers in a row. He kept the ball down and induced 14 ground-ball outs in 7 2/3 innings.

But Rangers starter Matt Harrison also had good stuff on Sunday, and Cahill said he knew right away that one mistake could get him beaten.

"It's tough, but the guy over there threw better than I did," Cahill said. "You could tell right away his stuff was electric. His velocity was up higher than I've seen it. He came out and wowed us."

The A's offense -- minus Conor Jackson and Hideki Matsui, one out with sore ribs, the other appearing as a pinch-hitter in the ninth -- had two innings where it had runners on first and second and didn't capitalize. Adam Rosales grounded into a fielder's choice in the second inning; Willingham struck out and Scott Sizemore grounded out in the fifth.

"I knew I had to keep attacking the zone and make them put the ball in play," Harrison said. "With a team like that, when you walk the guys, you're giving them a chance. You don't want to make a mistake, but you still got to make them swing the bats."

The A's have lost 22 of their past 28 road games heading into the All-Star break. They are 3-7 in July and go into the All-Star break with a losing record for the third consecutive season. Their 39-53 record is their worst record at the break since they were 37-52 in 1997.

"Luckily, we have four days to relax and get our minds off of baseball and come in like it's a new half," Cahill said. "It will do good for us. We have a couple of guys banged up and a couple of guys need a mental break."

Can the bats match the A's solid pitching staff?

"The numbers usually even out," Willingham said. "That's what we have to hope for." Comments