It was a playoff atmosphere at the Coliseum Monday afternoon as the A’s knocked off the Rangers in front of 23,495 raucous fans in the first game of a three-game series that has huge postseason ramifications.
On a sunny Labor Day game, perennial A’s killer Derek Holland was forced to labor through the Oakland lineup as he lasted just 4.2 innings. Three big hits lifted the A’s to a 4-2 victory, and a share of first place for the first time since August 9.
With 25 games left to play, the two division rivals are now deadlocked for the stretch run, and every one of their five remaining match-ups will be monumental in deciding the eventual division champion.
“Sometimes you have to find a little extra will. Games like this are high intensity, you just have to find that extra gear, and we were able to do it enough to get out of the game with a win,” said Bob Melvin.
The A’s used the long ball to get on the scoreboard and establish an early lead on a second inning solo shot off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. Later in the inning Chris Young slapped a single up the middle that rolled underneath the glove of Texas center fielder Leonys Martin. Alberto Callaspo scored on the play, however Chris Young stumbled around third base and was thrown out at the plate.
After the Rangers tied the game in the fifth inning, Coco Crisp hit his career-high seventeenth home run of the season on a ball that grazed the left-field foul pole to put the A’s in the lead for good.
Oakland has homered in fifteen consecutive games, and now is a season-high 21 games over .500.
Aside from a two-run home run allowed, A’s starter Dan Straily had a very effective start, allowing just three hits while striking out four over five innings pitched.
Grant Balfour kept the nerves of Oakland fans running rampant as he allowed runners to reach second and third with only one out in the ninth and the heart of the Rangers order coming up. However, he was able to escape with his 36th save of the season as he retired Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre on only two pitches to end the game.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will jump into sole possession of first place in the AL west. Bartolo Colon (14-5, 2.94) will take the hill against Martin Perez (8-3, 3.58) with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PST.