Sometimes no matter how well you pitch, it simply won't be enough.
That was the case in the A's 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels, which dropped Oakland back into a first-place tie with the home team.
Smith tossed a complete game in his first outing against an American League West opponent, allowing just three hits in eight innings, striking out five and walking three. But Angels lefty Joe Saunders was even better, blanking the A's over eight innings. He allowed just four hits to a team that had scored 14 runs the night before, the most runs the Angels had allowed at home since Sept. 22, 2004.
Saunders (5-0) struck out five, walked one and allowed just two A's runners to get as far as second base. The game wrapped up in just two hours, nine minutes.
"He just really had a nice 'hard-soft' game with the fastball and change-up," A's manager Bob Geren said. "He had great location. Both lefties pitched extremely well."
The A's did make things interesting in the ninth inning against closer Francisco Rodriguez. They put two runners on, only to watch Angels shortstop Erick Aybar ensure the A's defeat with two terrific catches of shallow pop flies from Emil Brown and Bobby Crosby to end the game.
But A's designated hitter Frank Thomas was miffed about another play earlier in the inning. With one out and Mark Ellis on first, Thomas bounced a ball down the third-base line that looked like it might go for extra bases. It was ruled foul by third-base umpire Charlie Reliford. Thomas had strong thoughts to the contrary.
"It was right over the bag, man" the DH said. "It went right over the bag and into foul ground. I thought the rule was if it was over the bag, it doesn't matter where it lands. That's why I turned around and said, 'Are you kidding me?'"
According to Geren, A's third-base coach Tony DeFrancesco said he thought the ball looked foul from his angle.
The bottom line is that the A's got handcuffed by Saunders, who is now 12-1 in his career when pitching after an Angels loss.
Smith (2-1), who suffered his first big league loss in his fifth career start, was nearly up to the task. His only regret came in the third inning, when the Angels scored both of their runs.
With one out, Smith walked No. 9 hitter Brandon Wood on four pitches.
"I knew as soon as it happened ..." Smith said.
Chone Figgins then sliced a double down the right-field line to put runners on second and third.
The first run came home when Smith uncorked a change-up in the dirt that scooted through catcher Kurt Suzuki's legs for a wild pitch. That moved Figgins to third, and he scored on a groundout to third by Gary Matthews Jr., a play on which the A's Donnie Murphy made a diving backhanded stop on.
But Smith again showed great composure over the course of the game. He was especially impressive against the Angels' 3-4 combo of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. The duo went a combined 0-for-6, and Hunter struck out twice.
"You're definitely aware of who's standing in the box, and you have to make a more quality pitch to those guys," Smith said.
He also picked Aybar off first in the fourth inning, Smith's AL-leading fourth pickoff of the season.
"You watch him pitch, and you don't think anything fazes him," Geren said. "To me he just goes out, and from the first day of spring training, it's been the same outing every time."
Geren employed an all right-handed batting order Tuesday, as the A's entered the game with a 5-5 mark and .240 average against lefties, compared to 12-5 and .263 vs. righties.
Contact Joe Stiglich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANGELS 2, A'S 0