SEATTLE — The A's packed their belongings Sunday and began scattering about, some players returning to Oakland on the team charter and others hopping a plane and heading straight home for the offseason.

In their final game, they fell short of manager Bob Geren's wish for the victory that would have given them a better record than 2007. A 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field left the A's 75-86, and how one views that final mark is open to interpretation.

But considering last winter's trades of four veterans, the team's surprisingly strong start to the season, two more trades in July and the second-half fade that followed, 11 games under .500 sounds about right for the 2008 A's.

And though they finished with a five-game losing streak and their worst record since going 74-88 in 1998, the talk in the clubhouse was optimistic in discussing what lies ahead.

"We've got some (young) guys that got a lot of big league experience," designated hitter Jack Cust said. "We've got a ways to go as far as where we need to be to compete with the Angels and White Sox and Red Sox, teams like that. But with the trades we made, I think we've got a lot of good players in return and hopefully we can mature."

Sunday's finale didn't have much riding on it, but it included some noteworthy story lines. Josh Outman, obtained from Philadelphia in July's trade of Joe Blanton, took the final start of the season and went six innings, allowing eight hits and three earned runs.


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Hardly spectacular, but he showed some promise since getting called up earlier in the month.

Travis Buck belted a home run down the right-field line to lead off the game and went 3-for-5. One of the early disappointments when he was demoted to the minors, Buck bounced back after getting recalled Sept. 16 and hit .367 with four homers in 12 games.

The A's will have a crowded outfield to sort out in the spring, with Buck, Ryan Sweeney, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, Rajai Davis and Chris Denorfia in the mix.

Denorfia earned Geren's praise and drew starts in the final two games, as the A's manager juggled his outfield plenty over the past couple of weeks.

Buck helped his cause with his impressive showing and gained confidence from it, as his postgame comments reflected.

"It means a whole lot — it wasn't a lost year," Buck said. "I showed improvement to myself. I know I'm a great player; I know they know I'm a great player. It's all about not having negative thoughts. I'm going to go into the offseason and work extremely hard."

Fittingly, Sunday's loss also showcased one of the A's season-long weaknesses — capitalizing on scoring opportunities. They scored three times in the first on Buck's homer and Denorfia's two-run double but didn't break through again, coming up empty with the bases loaded in the sixth and seventh.

"It's something we'd like to improve on," Geren said. "It's something every team in baseball would like to be better in. We're no different."

It's a reminder that although the A's are high on their core of young players, they're far from a finished product that's automatically set to contend.

"I think we have a lot of talent in the organization," Geren said. "If we need more, we've been able to do that in the past."

Contact Joe Stiglich at jstiglic@bayareanewsgroup.com.