Series: Game 1 of 3

Oakland leads 1-0 (as of 9/20)

Game 1: Friday, September 20
Texas 2Final
Oakland 4
Game 2: Saturday, September 21
Texas 3Final
Oakland 6
Game 3: Sunday, September 22
Texas 5Final
Oakland 7

Rangers 2

(70-84, 30-49 away)

Athletics 4

(97-57, 52-27 home)

    10:05 PM ET, September 20, 2002 Coliseum, Oakland, California 

    123456789 R H E
    TEX 000200000 2 - -
    OAK 00200002 - 4 - -

    W: J. Mecir (6-3)

    L: D. Kolb (3-5)

    S: R. Rincon (1)

    A's making third straight trip to playoffs

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With plastic champagne flutes and a quiet sense of purpose, the Oakland Athletics toasted their latest trip to the playoffs -- and vowed to celebrate a few more times this fall.

    Jermaine Dye

    Jermaine Dye's sacrifice to deep center scored the go-ahead run in the eighth.

    The fun-loving, small-budget A's clinched their third straight postseason berth on Friday night, with Jermaine Dye hitting a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to give Oakland a 4-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.

    Oakland's victory and Seattle's 8-1 loss to Anaheim guaranteed at least a wild-card berth for the A's, who won the AL West in 2000 and got the wild card with 102 victories last season in a run of success that has defied all conventional wisdom about payrolls and free agency.

    But there was no big party on the Coliseum field or in the clubhouse -- just a determination to do even more with less than any team in the majors.

    "I don't know if anybody gave us a legitimate shot this year with the players we lost in free agency, but this is a great achievement,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. "We had a little toast, but they all know we have another goal. If this was the final goal, we'd be tearing this place up, but we're not.

    "Hopefully, we'll get another chance to celebrate. If we do, hold on to your hat.''

    After the offseason departures of Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen, many wondered if Oakland could return to the postseason. The A's have done much more than return: With the league's best record at 97-57, Oakland maintained its one-game division lead over the Angels with eight games left.

    If the A's win the division, they would play host to AL Central champion Minnesota in the division series. If Anaheim (96-58) surges ahead, Oakland would get its third straight first-round series against the New York Yankees, who have won the last four AL pennants.

    "We made the playoffs, but what did we make the playoffs for?'' Dye asked. "We don't know yet. It's fun to make the playoffs, but we want to win the division.''

    Oakland's late rally was keyed by All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez's two errors on the same play. With Mark Ellis on first base, Rodriguez bobbled Miguel Tejada's grounder for the first error, then threw the ball past Michael Young into right field, allowing the runners to advance to second and third. Rodriguez had made just eight errors all season.

    Rodriguez and Tejada both went 0-for-4.

    "I don't think it was a good showcase of (potential) MVPs tonight,'' Rodriguez said. "Neither one of us played our best game.''

    After Danny Kolb (3-5) intentionally walked Eric Chavez, Dye hit a long fly ball to deep center, easily scoring Ellis. Reliever Juan Alvarez then walked David Justice and Randy Velarde, scoring Tejada with the A's second unearned run of the inning.

    Jim Mecir (6-3) got two outs in the eighth for the victory. Instead of going to closer Billy Koch for the sixth straight game, Oakland manager Art Howe let Ricardo Rincon pitch the ninth for his first save.

    The A's got their third straight victory with another late-inning rally, but they had no success against former teammate Kenny Rogers, who extended his unbeaten streak at the Coliseum to 33 appearances.

    Rogers, who has won 17 straight decisions in the pitcher-friendly park, allowed six hits and struck out a season-high eight over seven strong innings -- but the Rangers managed just one hit after the fourth inning while losing for the seventh time in eight games, all on the road.

    Ted Lilly, in probably his last start of the season, allowed four hits and two runs in five innings before leaving to protect a blister on his throwing hand. It was the best of the left-hander's starts since his two months on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, but the A's are expected to use a four-man rotation next week in preparation for the playoffs.

    "At this point, I finally feel comfortable,'' Lilly said. "We're all pretty pleased with the way I pitched tonight. I hope I've got a role (in the postseason).''

    The A's used four relievers over four scoreless innings.

    Oakland went up 2-0 in the third on back-to-back doubles by Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez, followed by a run-scoring single from Ellis. Texas tied it in the fourth on Herbert Perry's RBI double into the gap and Rafael Palmeiro's single.

    Game notes

    Jason Hart, the former Oakland prospect once considered Giambi's heir apparent at first base, went 0-for-2 starting in left field for the Rangers ... Rogers struck out the side in the sixth inning. ... The A's had gone eight straight games without a double -- the longest such streak in the franchise's Oakland history -- until Long got one in the third inning. ... Oakland and Texas play six of their final nine games against each other, including a season-ending three-game series in Arlington next weekend. ... The Rangers played their 32nd consecutive game without a day off. Manager Jerry Narron canceled Friday's batting practice for his road-weary players, who played four straight extra-inning games in Seattle earlier in the week.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press