OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Ellis felt like a spectator while the Oakland Athletics roared off on their latest winning streak. The second baseman's slump finally ended with two clutch hits -- and the A's roll shows no signs of slowing.
Ellis drove in four runs with a homer and a bases-loaded double, leading the surging A's to a 7-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
Milton Bradley also homered and drove in two runs for AL West-leading Oakland, which won for the eighth time in nine games in the opener of a 10-game homestand. The A's went 5-1 on the road last week against division rivals Los Angeles and Seattle -- no thanks to Ellis, who was batting .192 since the All-Star break.
But Ellis did most of the A's offensive work from the ninth slot in the batting order against Texas. He also made a sparkling play in the field, sprinting to grab Ian Kinsler's popup near the foul line in the ninth.
"Sometimes when you're in a prolonged slump like I've been, you don't feel you're contributing," Ellis said. "It was nice to be a part of it."
"Those were two huge hits," manager Ken Macha said. "Hopefully, he'll have some carry-over, get a little confidence going."
Before the game, Macha said Ellis might be taking too many pitches -- a rare criticism for a player on the walk-worshipping A's. After talking to hitting coach Gerald Perry before the game, Ellis fell just short of his season high of five RBI, set July 14 at Boston.
"In certain situations, you have to be a little more aggressive," Ellis said. "We've talked about it before, and today was one of those days."
This victory pushed Oakland to a season-high 10 games above .500, maintaining its three-game lead over the Angels atop the AL West.
Esteban Loaiza (5-7) got only his second victory in eight starts, repeatedly pitching out of trouble in 6 2/3 innings while allowing 10 hits and four runs.
"I'm happy with what I've been doing, but now I just feel a lot stronger," Loaiza said.
His inconsistent, injury-plagued first season in Oakland has featured regular boos from the Coliseum crowd -- and his arrest on drunken-driving charges in June while reportedly going 120 mph in his Ferrari on an Oakland freeway.
But Loaiza got a warm ovation from fans when he left in the seventh, and three relievers finished his second home win of the season. Kiko Calero pitched the ninth for his second save, resting Huston Street after three straight days of work for the Oakland closer.
Eric Chavez, the A's Gold Glove third baseman, made two big plays to back Loaiza. Chavez threw out Mark Teixeira at the plate in the second inning, then tagged Mark DeRosa off third and threw across the diamond for a double play in the fourth.
Hank Blalock hit his 13th homer for the Rangers, who lost their third straight to fall back below .500 (56-57) after a 4-1 start to their 10-game road trip.
Edinson Volquez (0-1), a disaster during limited time with Texas last season, yielded five hits and four runs in his first start of the year. The rookie right-hander was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma before the game to fill in for Kip Wells, who remained in Dallas with an unspecified arm ailment.
"He's a young man," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "He just turned 23, (but) he handled himself very well. ... He was more comfortable, and he threw more strikes."
Oakland went up 3-2 on Ellis' homer, and Swisher's single drove home Frank Thomas in the fourth. Blalock hit a solo homer in the sixth, but Ellis replied with two more RBI.
Kinsler doubled and scored on Gary Matthews Jr.'s sacrifice fly in the seventh to trim Oakland's lead to 6-4, but Bradley then hit his eighth homer.
"They're a good club, and right now everyone seems to be feeding off of each other," Texas' Michael Young said.
|Coach Ron Washington high-fives Mark Ellis, who hits a two-run homer in the third inning. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Gary Matthews Jr., CF||4||0||0||1||0||1||1||.318|
|Michael Young, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||0||.302|
|Carlos Lee, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.283|
|Mark Teixeira, 1B||4||0||2||0||0||2||1||.283|
|Hank Blalock, 3B||3||2||2||1||1||0||1||.285|
|Mark DeRosa, RF||4||1||1||0||0||0||2||.321|
|Matt Stairs, DH||4||0||2||1||0||0||2||.265|
|Ian Kinsler, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||0||2||.302|
|Rod Barajas, C||3||0||1||0||0||0||2||.249|
|a- Brad Wilkerson, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.223|
|a-struck out for Barajas in the 9th|
|2B - Mark Teixeira (33, Halsey), Matt Stairs 2 (18, Loaiza, Loaiza), Ian Kinsler (16, Loaiza)|
|HR - Hank Blalock (13, Loaiza)|
|SF - Gary Matthews Jr. (7)|
|RBI - Gary Matthews Jr. (56), Hank Blalock (70), Matt Stairs (34), Ian Kinsler (35)|
|2-OUT RBI - Hank Blalock (34)|
|SB - Carlos Lee (13, 2nd base off Loaiza/Kendall)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Outfield Assists - Carlos Lee 1|
|Edinson Volquez (L,0-1)||5||5||4||4||2||4||1||7.20|
|Pitches-Strikes - Edinson Volquez 95-55, Rick Bauer 28-15, C.J. Wilson 18-11, Josh Rupe 13-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Edinson Volquez 7-4, Rick Bauer 2-0, C.J. Wilson 1-0, Josh Rupe 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Edinson Volquez 22, Rick Bauer 8, C.J. Wilson 4, Josh Rupe 4|
|Jason Kendall, C||5||1||2||0||0||2||2||.275|
|Bobby Kielty, LF||5||0||0||0||0||1||2||.264|
|Milton Bradley, RF||4||1||1||2||0||1||1||.287|
|Frank Thomas, DH||3||1||1||0||0||0||1||.260|
|a- Adam Melhuse, PH-DH||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.223|
|Eric Chavez, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||0||1||.235|
|Jay Payton, CF||4||1||1||0||0||1||2||.295|
|Nick Swisher, 1B||4||1||2||1||0||2||2||.252|
|Marco Scutaro, SS||2||1||1||0||2||0||0||.238|
|Mark Ellis, 2B||4||1||2||4||0||0||3||.216|
|a-singled for Thomas in the 7th|
|2B - Jason Kendall (15, Volquez), Marco Scutaro (13, Rupe), Mark Ellis (12, Bauer)|
|HR - Milton Bradley (8, Bauer), Mark Ellis (6, Volquez)|
|RBI - Milton Bradley 2 (28), Nick Swisher (59), Mark Ellis 4 (30)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Chavez-Swisher, Ellis-Scutaro-Swisher|
|Esteban Loaiza (W,5-7)||6.2||10||4||4||1||4||1||6.41|
|Chad Gaudin (H,6)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||3.21|
|Brad Halsey (H,7)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||3.93|
|Kiko Calero (S,2)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||2.72|
|Pitches-Strikes - Esteban Loaiza 99-65, Chad Gaudin 4-4, Brad Halsey 13-8, Kiko Calero 10-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Esteban Loaiza 10-4, Chad Gaudin 1-0, Brad Halsey 1-2, Kiko Calero 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Esteban Loaiza 29, Chad Gaudin 1, Brad Halsey 4, Kiko Calero 3|
|Attendance - 21208|
|Game Time - 2:36|
|Temperature - 62|
|Umpires - Home - Dana DeMuth, First Base - Jim Joyce, Second Base - Paul Schrieber, Third Base - Doug Eddings|