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Kielty delivers game-ending homer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With a hair-raising homer, Bobby Kielty
capped another week of exhilarating victories for the Oakland
Athletics -- even if this one took nearly two hours longer than
everybody hoped.

Kielty led off the 14th inning with a solo shot to right field,
sending the surging A's to a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on
Sunday.

And when he reached his enthralled teammates waiting at home
plate, Kielty shed his batting helmet before everybody ran their
fingers upward through his long, thick mess of bright-red hair.

It was an odd celebratory gesture, but there's nothing normal
about Kielty's mane -- or the A's performances over the last month,
when they've rocketed from mediocrity to playoff contention.

"We're hot right now, really hot," said Kielty, who hit just
the second game-ending homer of his career. "It's definitely
better going on the road after winning a 14-inning game. Everybody
seems to be pulling their weight right now. We've definitely molded
together as a team. It just took a little bit of time."

The A's, who have won six of seven to move within a half-game of
second-place Texas in the AL West, took three of four from the
Rangers. Oakland has won 16 of 20 overall.

Oakland tied it on pinch-hitter Adam Melhuse's one-out RBI
double in the ninth off Francisco Cordero, who blew his fifth save.
Both teams repeatedly threatened to score in the extra innings, but
every rally stalled without a run.

Kielty, who entered the game as a pinch-runner in the ninth,
finally did it against Kameron Loe (3-2), ending both teams'
longest outing of the season.

"It couldn't be any better," said Kielty, a switch-hitter who
connected as a left-hander. "I haven't hit a really clean ball
like that left-handed for probably two years. To do it in that
situation, that's just great."

New A's reliever Joe Kennedy (1-0), who struggled in his debut
Saturday, got the victory despite allowing four hits in three
scoreless innings. Oakland turned inning-ending double plays behind
him in the 12th and 13th, and Gary Matthews Jr. was stranded on
third in the 14th.

"The intensity on both sides was terrific," A's manager Ken
Macha said. "It was two teams realizing they'll be battling for a
playoff spot."

Alfonso Soriano, Richard Hidalgo and Hank Blalock hit solo
homers, adding three more to the Rangers' major league-leading
total of 154 home runs. But Texas was held scoreless after the
eighth in a game lasting 4 hours, 10 minutes on getaway day for
both Oakland and the Rangers, who host the New York Yankees on
Monday night.

"It lasted so long, I can't remember how it started," said
David Dellucci, who went 2-for-6. "Both teams were having a tough
time with each other's pitchers. I knew it would take a big hit
like a homer to end it, and they got it."

After rookie Dan Johnson led off the ninth with a double off
Mark Teixeira's glove at first, Melhuse lined a double into the
right-field corner, scoring pinch-runner Mark Ellis. Melhuse,
Oakland's seldom-used backup catcher, has been a valuable
pinch-hitter, going 4-for-9 with two RBI this season.

"I don't think I have any [other] good memories this season,"
Melhuse said. "It's an extremely difficult thing. Hopefully, there
will be some more opportunities for me here and there."

Cordero has allowed four runs in his last four appearances, and
his struggles wasted a strong performance by starter Chris Young.
Texas manager Buck Showalter isn't worried about his closer,
however.

"He's been nails for us, and he will be again," Showalter
said. "It's a tough job, and he does it as well as anybody. I
think we both dodged some bullets. We got good innings out of our
bullpen, just like they did."

The 6-foot-10 Young was impressive, allowing five hits and never
facing trouble in the first five of his six innings. But Dan Haren
was nearly as good for the A's, allowing six hits and striking out
six in 6 1/3 innings.

Game notes
Kielty and A's C Jason Kendall have nine-game hitting
streaks. ... The A's improved to 7-2 in extra-inning games this
season despite stranding a runner in each of the first four extra
frames. ... OF Jay Payton, who homered in his first two games with
Oakland, went 0-for-6. So did Oakland's Mark Kotsay and Texas'
Kevin Mench. ... After announcing the move Saturday, the Rangers
placed Nix on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Friday.
Texas also officially recalled OF Jason Botts. ... Mench misplayed
Ellis' drive to left in the 13th for a two-base error, but the A's
couldn't capitalize.