After rough start, Garza shows composure

OAKLAND, Calif. -- By the time Texas Rangers right-hander Matt Garza threw his seventh pitch Saturday, the Oakland Athletics owned a 3-0 lead.

Coco Crisp led off with a drag bunt single, moved to second on Eric Sogard's sacrifice bunt and scored on Jed Lowrie's single. Then Yoenis Cespedes sent pitch No. 6, a slider, over the left field wall for a two-run homer.

Impressive start? Hardly. But after that nightmare beginning, Garza, according to Rangers manager Ron Washington, showed why Texas acquired him in a July 22 trade from the Chicago Cubs.

Garza went on to pitch a complete game, the first by a Ranger since June 27, when Derek Holland shut out the Yankees. Garza allowed eight hits but just four runs over eight innings.

The Rangers suffered a 4-2 loss that snapped their five-game winning streak and dropped them 3½ games behind the A's in the American League West. But Garza made Oakland earn the win.

"He showed me what we knew we were getting," Washington said. "A competitor. He doesn't let issues early affect what he's out there to do. He finished the game. He did a good job. He gave us a chance. That's all you ask."

Garza beat the A's earlier in the season when he was still pitching for the Cubs. He allowed just one run on four hits over eight innings that day. This time, the A's decided to change their plan of attack and play small ball -- well, other than when Cespedes hit his 17th home run of the season.

"It was a great bunt. Coco's a great bunter," Garza said. "You just tip your cap. Then Sogard bunted him over. Back-to-back bunts in the first inning. That from there kind of let me know they were going to play small ball all day. Cespedes hits that rocket shot. It hung up there and kind of carried out. You just kind of go from there. Three-nothing out of the gates, and your mindset is just go out there, keep attacking and keep your guys in the game and go as long as you can."

Garza, who made his third start as a Ranger, threw five straight shutout innings after the first, allowing two hits -- a Josh Donaldson single and a Brandon Moss ground-rule double that center fielder Leonys Martin lost in the sun.

"I feel he made a good adjustments after the first inning," Rangers catcher Geovany Soto said. "He went after hitters. I felt he was smart with his pitches. He moved the ball around and got a lot of early outs, got ground balls, got fly balls. He battled and settled down after that first inning."

The A's added a fourth run against Garza in the seventh, continuing their small-ball attack. Alberto Callaspo led off with a walk and advanced to second on Stephen Vogt's sacrifice bunt. Callaspo moved to third on Crisp's single and scored when Sogard sent a safety squeeze bunt down the first base line. An obviously frustrated Garza had no choice but to get the out at first, and he had some words for Sogard.

"I asked him where's a good place to eat in Oakland," Garza said. "That's about it. Like I said, they showed me how they're going to play and how they were going to attack me. That's fine. Next time I'll be ready."

Next time he'll make sure not to throw Cespedes another low slider.

"I thought it was down, but that's his zone down there," Washington said of Cespedes. "You throw him something down there, you know he'll swing at some things that hit the dirt. But you throw him something down there that don't hit the dirt, that's what he does pretty good. He's strong. He went down there and got it. You got to give him credit."

Garza's teammates gave him credit for battling after a rough start.

"It was awesome," Rangers left fielder David Murphy said. "That's exactly why you keep battling. Just because you give up runs early, doesn't mean you can't stay in the game and give your team a fighting chance. That's exactly what he did."