- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The Athletics managed to compile the best record in the American League through the first three weeks of the season despite not having a defined closer.

They need to find one fast if they want to stay in front.

Luke Gregerson, the latest to get a shot at the job, gave up a pair of runs with two outs in the ninth inning and Oakland lost its second straight to division rival Texas 5-4 on Tuesday night.

The Rangers’ rally came after Gregerson made a nice play on a comebacker to catch Mitch Moreland trying to score from third base on a squeeze play for the second out. Josh Wilson followed with an RBI double and scored the game-winner on a single by Michael Choice.

“It’s funny, you get a gift like that, a nice ball come right back to you and you get the guy at home,” Gregerson said. “I just didn’t execute my pitches (after that). I didn’t get the ball down in the zone like I wanted to. I kind of had a slider that backed up on me and (Wilson) took advantage of it.”

Gregerson (0-1) took the loss after blowing his third save opportunity. He gave up two runs on three hits.

“He just wasn’t getting his slider to the other side of the plate, which is usually his go-to pitch especially when he’s ahead,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “He just didn’t get the slider far enough away. It kind of hung there.”

More concerning to Melvin was the A’s failure to take advantage of early struggles by Texas rookie starter Nick Martinez after scoring twice in the first and twice in the second.

Martinez was recalled from Double-A to make the start for the Rangers. He lasted five innings, allowing four runs on six hits. He walked three, struck out one and got some help from Texas’ defense when center fielder Leonys Martin caught Jed Lowrie’s fly ball then threw out John Jaso at home to complete the double play.

“That’s been an issue for us,” Melvin said. “It’s usually not what happens in the last inning or the last at-bat. A lot of times it’s what transpired in the middle innings or when you had opportunities earlier.”

Alexi Ogando (1-1) recorded one out in the eighth to pick up the win. Joakim Soria pitched the ninth for his fifth save.

Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard drove in runs for the A’s, who lost their second straight for the first time this season. Josh Reddick had two hits.

A’s starter Tommy Milone allowed three runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out one.

Three of Milone’s walks came in the first inning, when the Rangers took a 2-0 lead. Murphy singled home one run and Robinson Chirinos walked with the bases loaded.

The A’s answered in their half of the first. Jed Lowrie doubled and scored when Donaldson singled. Cespedes hit a double, allowing Donaldson to score.

The Rangers regained the lead in the third. Alex Rios walked and went to third on Prince Fielder’s single. Kevin Kouzmanoff hit into a double play, with Rios scoring.

Kouzmanoff left the game after the top of the fourth with tightness in his back. Luis Sardinas entered the game at second base, with Josh Wilson moving to third.

With one out in the fourth, John Jaso singled and Reddick reached base when Wilson mishandled his grounder. Sogard hit a sacrifice fly and Crisp followed with his double.

Rangers relief pitcher Pedro Figueroa left the game with an apparent back injury after hitting Reddick with a pitch with two outs in the eighth. Ogando replaced him.

NOTES: Crisp, who fell hard and bruised his ribs during Monday night’s game, had X-Rays taken that were negative. … A’s LHP Eric O’Flaherty (Tommy John surgery) threw all his pitches at full distance during a bullpen session, encouraging A’s manager Bob Melvin to ask if he was available for an inning. . The A’s rejected the Oakland-Alameda County Authority’s 10-year lease proposal. … RHP Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.80) pitches for the A’s in Wednesday’s matinee game and will make his first start against the Rangers. He is currently 6-0 over his last eight starts dating to last year.



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