OAKLAND, Calif. -- With a hair-raising homer, Bobby Kielty capped another week of exhilarating victories for the Oakland Athletics -- even if this one took nearly two hours longer than everybody hoped.
Kielty led off the 14th inning with a solo shot to right field, sending the surging A's to a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
And when he reached his enthralled teammates waiting at home plate, Kielty shed his batting helmet before everybody ran their fingers upward through his long, thick mess of bright-red hair.
It was an odd celebratory gesture, but there's nothing normal about Kielty's mane -- or the A's performances over the last month, when they've rocketed from mediocrity to playoff contention.
"We're hot right now, really hot," said Kielty, who hit just the second game-ending homer of his career. "It's definitely better going on the road after winning a 14-inning game. Everybody seems to be pulling their weight right now. We've definitely molded together as a team. It just took a little bit of time."
The A's, who have won six of seven to move within a half-game of second-place Texas in the AL West, took three of four from the Rangers. Oakland has won 16 of 20 overall.
Oakland tied it on pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse's one-out RBI double in the ninth off Francisco Cordero, who blew his fifth save. Both teams repeatedly threatened to score in the extra innings, but every rally stalled without a run.
Kielty, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the ninth, finally did it against Kameron Loe (3-2), ending both teams' longest outing of the season.
"It couldn't be any better," said Kielty, a switch-hitter who connected as a left-hander. "I haven't hit a really clean ball like that left-handed for probably two years. To do it in that situation, that's just great."
New A's reliever Joe Kennedy (1-0), who struggled in his debut Saturday, got the victory despite allowing four hits in three scoreless innings. Oakland turned inning-ending double plays behind him in the 12th and 13th, and Gary Matthews Jr. was stranded on third in the 14th.
"The intensity on both sides was terrific," A's manager Ken Macha said. "It was two teams realizing they'll be battling for a playoff spot."
Alfonso Soriano, Richard Hidalgo and Hank Blalock hit solo homers, adding three more to the Rangers' major league-leading total of 154 home runs. But Texas was held scoreless after the eighth in a game lasting 4 hours, 10 minutes on getaway day for both Oakland and the Rangers, who host the New York Yankees on Monday night.
"It lasted so long, I can't remember how it started," said David Dellucci, who went 2-for-6. "Both teams were having a tough time with each other's pitchers. I knew it would take a big hit like a homer to end it, and they got it."
After rookie Dan Johnson led off the ninth with a double off Mark Teixeira's glove at first, Melhuse lined a double into the right-field corner, scoring pinch-runner Mark Ellis. Melhuse, Oakland's seldom-used backup catcher, has been a valuable pinch-hitter, going 4-for-9 with two RBI this season.
"I don't think I have any (other) good memories this season," Melhuse said. "It's an extremely difficult thing. Hopefully, there will be some more opportunities for me here and there."
Cordero has allowed four runs in his last four appearances, and his struggles wasted a strong performance by starter Chris Young. Texas manager Buck Showalter isn't worried about his closer, however.
"He's been nails for us, and he will be again," Showalter said. "It's a tough job, and he does it as well as anybody. I think we both dodged some bullets. We got good innings out of our bullpen, just like they did."
The 6-foot-10 Young was impressive, allowing five hits and never facing trouble in the first five of his six innings. But Dan Haren was nearly as good for the A's, allowing six hits and striking out six in 6 1/3 innings.
- Kielty and A's C Jason Kendall have nine-game hitting streaks.
- The A's improved to 7-2 in extra-inning games this season despite stranding a runner in each of the first four extra frames.
- OF Jay Payton, who homered in his first two games with Oakland, went 0-for-6. So did Oakland's Mark Kotsay and Texas' Kevin Mench.
- After announcing the move Saturday, the Rangers placed Nix on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Friday. Texas also officially recalled OF Jason Botts.
- Mench misplayed Ellis' drive to left in the 13th for a two-base error, but the A's couldn't capitalize.