OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Kendall is playing in his first pennant race after nine years of losing in Pittsburgh. Despite a playoff-starved career and months of frustration with his production at the plate, Kendall keeps contributing big hits.
The Oakland Athletics considered this about as must-win as they get, and their first-year catcher came through.
Kendall hit a tiebreaking single in the eighth inning, and the A's rallied from a three-run deficit for a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
With the A's struggling to remain in playoff contention, they pulled out a crucial victory by coming back after trailing 5-2.
"I'm having the time of my life," said Kendall, whose Pirates teams never had a record above .500 after Sept. 1. "We're still having fun. We've got to win."
After Jay Payton led off the eighth with a double down the left-field line, Dan Johnson followed with a tying RBI double off the wall in right. Hiram Bocachica entered as a pinch-runner, John Wasdin (2-2) intentionally walked Mark Ellis and Kendall's drive got past shortstop Michael Young, allowing Bocachica to score the go-ahead run.
"The guys know what's at stake, and they're playing with urgency," A's manager Ken Macha said.
Eric Chavez added an RBI single in the inning for his third hit of the day to go with his seventh-inning sacrifice fly.
Oakland began the day trailing AL West-leading Los Angeles by four games. The Angels, who play four games at the A's next week, were at home against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
"It's a good win today, not a must-win but pretty darn important," designated hitter Scott Hatteberg said. "The little things are something we've really got to do consistently."
Mark Teixeira hit a two-run homer and a two-run double for Texas. He connected for the second straight day, sending his career-best 43rd homer over the left-field wall in the first inning.
Teixeira has nine homers in September and 31 RBI this month, the most in the majors and a franchise record.
Young extended his career-best hitting streak to 21 games with an infield single in the third, hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the fifth and also singled in a run in the ninth.
He is more concerned with helping Texas end the season on a strong note.
"I'm really trying not to think about it," Young said. "I've been doing the best I can to just focus on finishing out the schedule for the right reasons, and that's to try to help the team win as many games."
Barry Zito allowed baserunners in every inning but the fourth and was done after six innings. Justin Duchscherer (7-4) pitched the eighth with a sore back, and Huston Street finished for his 22nd save in 26 chances.
Zito struck out five and walked two, allowing five runs and seven hits.
The A's are trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season after a stretch of four straight postseason berths from 2000-2003. Oakland went 7-20 in May with two eight-game losing streaks before bouncing back with another of the club's second-half surges to make things interesting.
"We're going out there fighting," said Johnson, Oakland's rookie first baseman. "Every game is huge for us right now. We're not going to quit until the last out is made. ... That's the kind of guys we've got on this team."
Rangers starter R.A. Dickey pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and four hits. He walked a career-high five batters.
Oakland loaded the bases against C.J. Wilson in the seventh, with Chavez's sacrifice fly pulling the A's to 5-4.
Gary Matthews Jr. also added two hits and scored a run for Texas, which won Friday's series opener 3-1.
- A's RHP Rich Harden could pitch out of the bullpen as soon as Sunday. Harden reported normal soreness in his throwing shoulder a day after pitching a simulated game to test a strained muscle beneath the shoulder. Harden, sidelined since Aug. 19 with the injury, played some light catch in the outfield before Saturday's game. "It feels like I went out and threw yesterday," he said. "It's sore around all those muscles around the area, but not in that spot. That's a good sign. It shows I'm getting stronger." He is scheduled to throw again Sunday.
- Matthews stole his eighth base of the year in the seventh.
- Teixeira has driven in at least one run in 12 of his last 17 games.
- Chavez recorded his 422nd extra-base hit, tying him with Jason Giambi and Sal Bando for fifth place in Oakland history.