ARLINGTON -- These are frustrating times when it comes to the Rangers' pitching staff.
C.J. Wilson gives up two hits, one he labeled as a "flair shot," but departs trailing by two runs. Manager Ron Washington goes to his struggling bullpen in a close game, and an onslaught ensues for the second consecutive day.
It's where the Rangers are after a 7-2 loss to the A's on Monday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas has now dropped seven of its past nine games.
At 18-18, the Rangers have a .500 record for the first time since they were 14-14 on May 5 of last season. The Rangers, of course, went on to win the American League West going away en route to their first World Series berth.
The question right now is if they have the arms to contend in the pitching-rich AL West? The A's, for instance, came in with all three starters for this series posting ERAs under 2.77.
The Rangers have had solid enough starting pitching to have a competitive record -- the rotation had a 3.89 ERA and a league-high 15 wins, coming into Monday. And Wilson dominated the A's for the majority of his seven innings.
But against Trevor Cahill, who is now one of two Major League pitchers with a 6-0 mark and has the AL's best ERA at 1.79 -- and entered the game at 7-2 with a 2.29 career ERA against the Rangers -- one mistake was enough to lose.
Wilson was cruising before he consecutively walked Daric Barton and Conor Jackson on full-count pitches with two outs in top of the third. He then threw a 2-1 two-seam fastball that hung up just enough for Josh Willingham to line over the left-field fence for a 3-0 lead.
"If I don't walk one of those guys or don't walk both of them, then he doesn't bat in that inning and they don't score three runs," Wilson said. "That's bad. The whole game was frustrating. It's a good thing nobody can read body language or they can read minds."
Both of Wilson's losses this season have come against Oakland, and the A's style of working the count agitates the Rangers' ace. Home-plate umpire Gerry Davis' strike zone didn't seem to agree with Wilson, either. He came into Monday's game with just 13 walks in 49 1/3 innings, but he issued five in seven innings against the A's.
"That's how they're going to beat me," Wilson said. "That's how they have to beat me. I have to make a bunch of mistakes and walk a bunch of guys, because they're not that good of a hitting team. I have no idea why it is that I pitch so poorly against them. It just cracks me up.
"It's like, obviously no one sets out there to go walk guys, and I haven't been doing that lately. It's just only against their team that I do that. They take everything close. If it's not called a strike, then they walk. It's lawyer ball. That's how they roll."
The Rangers still only trailed, 3-1, in the top of the eighth when Wilson started the inning by hitting Coco Crisp. He walked Barton before Washington went to reliever Ryan Tucker.
The bullpen, this time Tucker, wasn't the solution to keep the Rangers close. For the second straight day, the relief corps turned a tight game into a blowout.
Tucker didn't retire any of the four batters he faced, mixing in two walks with a two-run single by Willingham and an RBI double by Kurt Suzuki. Mark Ellis' sacrifice fly off of Brett Tomko made it 7-1. The Rangers allowed six runs in the top of the eighth Sunday in a 12-5 loss to the Yankees. The bullpen has allowed 12 runs in the past two games.
"We need to figure out how to get outs late in the game," Washington said. "That's biting us. It's something we have to get corrected, all the free passes."
Especially with Cahill as the opposing starter. He now has a seven-game winning streak, dating back to last year.
Cahill allowed two singles through four innings before Mitch Moreland's leadoff home run in the fifth. Chris Davis followed with a single, but Cahill retired the next nine batters in a row.
"The approach you have to take with him is to stay on the ball and get something up," Moreland said. "Everything he throws moves so much."
The Rangers, meanwhile, are moving in the wrong direction. Unless they can rebound and win these last games against hot left-handers Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, the Rangers will lose their fifth straight series and their eighth in the past nine.
"It's frustrating," David Murphy said. "We need to use this time directly after the game to think about it a little bit. And then once we leave here, we need to get rid of it. Everybody knows what's going on right now. Nobody is enjoying it.
"There's a lot of baseball left to be played. I mean, honestly, if you really look at the grand scheme of things, we could be in a lot worse spots."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.