|Oakland (93-68) «||0||0||0||0||2||1||0||0||x||3||6||2|
OAKLAND, Calif. -- After erasing what once appeared to be an insurmountable deficit, it has come down to this for the Oakland Athletics -- one game against the Texas Rangers to decide the AL West title.
Travis Blackley allowed one run over six innings in a strong bounce-back performance that helped the A's move into a first-place tie with Texas by beating the Rangers 3-1 Tuesday night.
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"As long as we believe inside this clubhouse and we know we can get it down, we're going to do it. I honestly believe we're going to win tomorrow," closer Grant Balfour said. "Nothing is guaranteed, but it's about as good as. I believe we can go out and get it done."
And who would doubt these rag-tag A's after the remarkable run they have had to get to this point?
A night after holding a raucous celebration after clinching their first playoff berth since 2006, the A's erased the last piece of what had been a 13-game deficit in the division race on June 30 to take a share of first place for the first time since March 29.
Blackley (6-4) gave up three hits and struck out five a week after the Rangers knocked him out with a five-run first inning in the shortest start of his career. He allowed only an RBI double to Josh Hamilton in his longest outing since July 24, just the latest surprising performance in an improbable season for the low-budget A's.
"I just went out there like I had nothing to lose and it worked out," Blackley said.
Derek Norris gave Oakland the lead in the fifth with an RBI single that scored a second run when right fielder Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball in right field for an error. Jonny Gomes added a solo homer in the sixth and the bullpen did the rest in Oakland's fifth straight win.
The A's will try to cap the comeback Wednesday in game No. 162 when A.J. Griffin (7-1) takes the mound against Ryan Dempster (7-3). Only four teams have won a division or pennant after trailing by at least 13 games.
"No one said it was going to be easy," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We started out to play 162 games and now -- tomorrow -- it's 162. And we'll see what happens. We take it no different than we have been approaching it. We just haven't put our game together yet. Tomorrow we have to put it together. If we don't put it together, we still go to the playoffs."
The loser will go the postseason as one of the two AL wild-card teams, needing to win a one-game playoff with Baltimore or the New York Yankees on Friday to advance to the division series.
"This isn't Game 7 of the World Series. It's not win or go home," Gomes said. "We're going to play loose. We're going to have fun and just continue to pass the torch. Hopefully tomorrow we get our pitching, defense and homers. That's been it for us."
The Rangers, who had held sole possession of the AL West lead since April 9, never expected to be in that position. But now they need one more victory to win their third straight division title.
They had been counting on Matt Harrison (18-11) to wrap up the title but now need to survive one more storm Wednesday to do it.
Harrison had been cruising along, retiring 10 straight batters before running into trouble in the fifth. Josh Donaldson led off with a single and advanced to third on Brandon Moss' double. Norris then lined a single to right field that scored Donaldson with the tying run. Third base coach Mike Gallego initially held up Moss, but Cruz bobbled the ball for an error that allowed Moss to score.
Oakland tacked on an insurance run when Gomes hit his 18th homer with two outs in the sixth to make it 3-1, delighting the crowd of 30,660.
"He got two pitches up where he probably didn't want them," Washington said. "The one to Donaldson and the other to Moss. They were able to put something together in that inning and put some runs on the board. He fell behind on Gomes and he had to come in with a fastball strike and Gomes didn't miss it. There's the score right there. We put just one run on the board tonight."
|Grant Balfour nails down the save to help the A's defeat the Rangers and pull even in the AL West. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Ian Kinsler, 2B||3||1||0||0||1||0||1||.257|
|Elvis Andrus, SS||3||0||0||0||1||1||2||.288|
|Josh Hamilton, LF-CF||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||.285|
|Adrian Beltre, DH||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.318|
|Nelson Cruz, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.259|
|Michael Young, 3B||3||0||2||0||0||0||1||.277|
|Mike Napoli, 1B-C||3||0||0||0||0||1||3||.230|
|Geovany Soto, C||2||0||0||0||0||2||2||.197|
|a- Mitch Moreland, PH-1B||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.275|
|Craig Gentry, CF||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.304|
|b- David Murphy, PH-LF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.302|
|a-singled for Soto in the 8th|
|b-grounded out for Gentry in the 8th|
|2B - Josh Hamilton (31, Blackley), Adrian Beltre (33, Blackley)|
|RBI - Josh Hamilton (128)|
|2-OUT RBI - Josh Hamilton (32)|
|Team LOB - 4|
|DP - Andrus-Kinsler-Napoli|
|E - Elvis Andrus (16, Throwing), Nelson Cruz (3, Misplayed grounder)|
|Matt Harrison (L,18-11)||6||6||3||3||1||5||1||3.29|
|Pitches-Strikes - Matt Harrison 89-58, Alexi Ogando 19-12, Michael Kirkman 12-8, Roy Oswalt 5-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Harrison 7-4, Alexi Ogando 2-0, Michael Kirkman 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Matt Harrison 23, Alexi Ogando 4, Michael Kirkman 2, Roy Oswalt 1|
|Coco Crisp, CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.259|
|Stephen Drew, SS||4||0||1||0||0||2||0||.223|
|Yoenis Cespedes, LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.291|
|Jonny Gomes, DH||2||1||1||1||1||0||0||.262|
|Josh Reddick, RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||.243|
|Josh Donaldson, 3B||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.238|
|Brandon Moss, 1B||3||1||1||0||0||2||0||.287|
|Derek Norris, C||3||0||1||1||0||1||0||.194|
|Adam Rosales, 2B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.222|
|a- Cliff Pennington, PH-2B||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.217|
|a-struck out for Rosales in the 7th|
|2B - Brandon Moss (17, Harrison)|
|HR - Jonny Gomes (18, Harrison)|
|RBI - Jonny Gomes (47), Derek Norris (32)|
|2-OUT RBI - Jonny Gomes (21)|
|CS - Yoenis Cespedes (4, 2nd base by Harrison/Soto)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|DP - Drew-Rosales-Moss, Drew-Moss, Donaldson-Rosales-Moss|
|E - Josh Donaldson (13, Misplayed grounder), Josh Reddick (6, Dropped fly)|
|Travis Blackley (W,6-4)||6||3||1||1||2||5||0||4.10|
|Sean Doolittle (H,17)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||3.11|
|Ryan Cook (H,20)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||2.12|
|Grant Balfour (S,24)||1||0||0||0||0||2||0||2.57|
|Pitches-Strikes - Travis Blackley 83-51, Sean Doolittle 9-7, Ryan Cook 17-13, Grant Balfour 10-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Travis Blackley 8-4, Sean Doolittle 2-0, Ryan Cook 3-0, Grant Balfour 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Travis Blackley 22, Sean Doolittle 3, Ryan Cook 4, Grant Balfour 3|
|Attendance - 30660|
|Game Time - 2:43|
|Temperature - 87|
|Umpires - Home - Field Culbreth, First Base - Gary Cederstrom, Second Base - Adrian Johnson, Third Base - Lance Barksdale|