Payton helped keep a three-run deficit within reach by running into the left-field wall for the catch that ended the fourth inning. He began Oakland's comeback by leading off the fifth with a single that turned into the Athletics' first run. He capped his performance by driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
"I'm happy to be here, to be getting the opportunity to play games," Payton said. "I guess since I yelled to get out of Boston, I better do OK or else it's not going to look too good."
Payton's frustration over playing time led to a spat with manager Terry Francona and, ultimately, his trade to Oakland. With his second straight three-hit game, Payton is 9-for-23 (.391) with two home runs and five RBI in five games with the A's.
"He came in with the right attitude," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "He's driving in runs, making great catches -- there's not much not to like."
He may have won over his teammates with his feats in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth.
Texas was up 3-0 -- with ace Kenny Rogers pitching what might be his last game for a while -- when Mark Teixeira drove a ball into the left-center gap with runners on second and third and two outs. Payton tracked it down and hung on as he slammed into the wall.
Rogers had retired eight straight batters since Payton singled in the second. Payton singled again and scored on Nick Swisher's double. Then Swisher narrowly scored on a play at the plate and the A's were within one.
"If that ball (Teixeira hit) falls in, they get two more runs and it's 5-0. Instead, we get two runs and it's 3-2, so that play was huge," Oakland starter Joe Blanton said.
Swisher drove in two more runs in the sixth to put the A's up 4-3. After Michael Young tied it for Texas, Payton chopped a ball through the left side of the infield off Kameron Loe (4-3) to put Oakland back in the lead for good. Bobby Kielty, who extended his hitting streak to 13 games, added an RBI single in the ninth.
The A's beat the Rangers for the fourth time in five meetings since the All-Star break. They've won 19 of their last 24, helping them open a 1½-game lead over Texas for second in the AL West. This win also improved the A's to 12-5 in their last 17 road games, which is significant because they were 1-16 in their previous 17 away from home.
Rogers is usually tough on Oakland, but he couldn't protect the lead this time. The question now for Texas is when will he pitch again.
He'll go before commissioner Bud Selig in Milwaukee on Friday to appeal his 20-game suspension for shoving two cameramen. If no decision is made by Monday, the Rangers could try starting Rogers that night on three days' rest, even though he threw 107 pitches Thursday.
However, even after Selig rules, the players association could drag things out longer by taking the case to an arbitrator over the fact Selig issued the penalty instead of baseball's head disciplinarian, Bob Watson.
In the Texas clubhouse Thursday night, the only concern was wasting their strong start.
"We had them on the ropes but couldn't deliver the big blow," manager Buck Showalter said.
The Rangers left someone on base each of the first seven innings, stranding 11 and going 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position in that span.
"It was one of those games where when it's over, you think back about the things that you could have done," Texas' David Dellucci said.
Alfonso Soriano tripled, doubled and singled in his first three at-bats, leaving him a homer shy of the cycle. He grounded out to the shortstop in the sixth and flew out to the edge of warning track in right-center in the ninth.
- A's leadoff man Jason Kendall beat out an infield hit in the ninth to end an 0-for-19 skid.
- Sandy Alomar Jr. laid down the Rangers' third sacrifice bunt of the season in the third. Going into Thursday night, Boston had the next-fewest with six and Washington led the majors with 58.