OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics long ago decided to focus on the future rather than 2008 season. Rookie outfielder Aaron Cunningham is making a strong bid to make sure he's included in their plans.
Cunningham hit his first major league homer, a three-run shot that broke an eighth-inning tie and lifted the A's over the Texas Rangers 7-4 Sunday.
"It's a good feeling to get it out of the way," Cunningham said. "It's always nice to hit a home run but to come through and help the team get a W is even better."
Joey Devine (6-1) pitched one scoreless inning for the win. Brad Ziegler worked the ninth for his ninth save in as many chances.
Ziegler allowed a two-out double to Marlon Byrd, but got Nelson Cruz to ground out to end the game. Cruz drove in all four Texas runs with a two-run double in the third, an RBI double in the fifth and a single in the seventh.
The A's got plenty of help from the Rangers. Four pitchers combined for 10 walks and hit two batters as the Rangers lost for the third time in their last five games.
"That's 12 free runners," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "You can't be competitive if you don't throw the ball over the plate. We were messing with trouble all day and it finally caught up with us in the eighth inning."
Cliff Pennington and Ryan Sweeney drew back-to-back walks from reliever Warner Madrigal (0-2) to open the eighth. Two outs later, Cunningham hit the first pitch over the wall in left field.
Cunningham homered in his 46th at-bat since making his big league debut earlier this year. The 22-year-old, who hit 17 home runs combined in Double-A and Triple-A this season, finished with two hits to raise his average to .304.
Because the A's figure to have a crowded outfield next season, Cunningham is trying to do all he can now to earn the club's attention.
"I figured they'd like to see what I can do and maybe I can come back and make the team next year," Cunningham said. "(Madrigal) just left it over the plate. It was awesome, definitely a good feeling."
Oakland manager Bob Geren wouldn't speculate on Cunningham's prospects for 2009 but likes what the young outfielder is doing in his limited opportunities this year.
"He's settling in, looking very comfortable," Geren said. "Right now you're kind of seeing all-around play. Hitting, hitting with power, base running, defense. I don't want to get into next season yet. We're just giving guys chances here to show what they can do. I just know that we have a lot of talented outfielders in our system."
Texas starter Vincente Padilla scattered five hits over five innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list, but was denied his 11th road win of the season. He allowed two runs, struck out four and left with a 3-2 lead before the Rangers bullpen let it slip away.
Reliever Bill White walked the only two batters he faced in the sixth, and after Rajai Davis hit into a fielder's choice, Pennington walked to load the bases. Sweeney then hit a sharp single to the gap in right-center to score Jack Hannahan and Davis to give Oakland a 4-3 lead.
"Everybody who pitched today was erratic," Washington said. "Maybe it was the mound, I don't know."
Dana Eveland allowed three runs over five innings but remained winless in his last four starts.
Huston Street, the former Oakland closer who has been relegated to middle relief, gave up the tying run in the seventh when Michael Young singled and scored on Cruz's third hit of the game to make it 4-all.
Rangers designated hitter Gerald Laird was ejected in the fourth inning after being called out on strikes. He disputed the third strike and was walking back to the dugout when he was ejected by home plate umpire Angel Campos.
It was the second time in two days that Campos ejected a Texas player. Milton Bradley was thrown out of Saturday's 7-1 loss after arguing with Campos about a double play.