ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are back in playoff contention thanks to an impressive run.
Scott Hatteberg drove in three runs and the streaking A's finished a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers with an 8-3 victory Sunday.Bobby Crosby and Mark Ellis each had three hits to help the A's extend their winning streak to six. After going 7-20 in May, they've won 26 of their last 32 to tie Minnesota for the wild-card lead and build a 4½-game edge over the Rangers for second place in the AL West."A lot of people doubted we could do this," said Crosby, who also made a diving catch with his back to the plate in short left field to end the fourth. "It took us a while. But I'm not shocked by this. To come here and take four, I'm pretty impressed with how we're playing."Texas lost its fifth straight and fell to 2-9 since the All-Star break, completing a 1-6 homestand. The Rangers, who've dropped seven of eight to the A's since the break, dipped under .500 (48-49) for the first time since they were 13-14 on May 2."This homestand definitely wasn't nice to us," shortstop Michael Young said. "We have a lot of room to make up. There's two months to play. But we're a lot of games back now and that's a fact, so we can't be afraid to admit that."Rich Harden (8-4) wasn't nearly as dominant as his last start against Texas, but he was good enough to win. He allowed three runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking four. The right-hander threw 111 pitches in temperatures that reached the mid-90s.In his previous outing against the Rangers on July 14, Harden carried a perfect game into the eighth and threw a two-hitter in a 6-0 victory."I didn't have my command early," said Harden, who is 2-1 with a 1.54 ERA in three starts against Texas this season. "But at the end I thought I was close to normal. I'm used to the heat. That didn't bother me. My mechanics were just off early."The A's have received contributions from several sources during this streak. After Harden exited, Joe Kennedy and Justin Duchscherer combined to pitch 3 2/3 innings of two-hit relief."I'm enjoying the way the players are going at it, the fever pitch at which they're playing," A's manager Ken Macha said. "In this era of high-dollar players, we've played as a team and that's the fun part of it."Oakland jumped on Chan Ho Park (8-5) in the first, using Crosby's RBI double and Hatteberg's run-scoring single for a 2-0 edge.Rangers center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., who drove in three runs, helped the A's in the first when he caught a one-out fly off the bat of Eric Chavez and, thinking it was the third out, flipped the ball to left fielder David Dellucci. Crosby tagged up at second, advanced to third and scored on Hatteberg's line-drive single.Texas made it 2-1 in the second when Harden walked Matthews with the bases loaded, but Harden escaped further damage when he got Sandy Alomar to hit into a double play.Oakland extended its lead to 3-1 in the third on Hatteberg's RBI single.The A's broke the game open in the fourth, chasing Park with run-scoring singles by Ellis and Mark Kotsay."Chan Ho was not very sharp," Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "It's kind of been the case for us for a while. Too many two-strike mistakes. All our pitchers ... we haven't been making quality pitches when we're ahead in the count. We paid the price."Park left the bases loaded, and Chavez's sacrifice fly off John Wasdin made it 6-1.Park allowed six runs and nine hits over 3 1/3 innings."We got some good pitches to hit out over the plate from Chan Ho and we were able to take advantage," Kotsay said.
Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira was given a break from the heat, serving as the DH for the second time this season. Adrian Gonzalez, recalled from the minors on Saturday, got the start at first base in place of Teixeira, who went 1-for-4. Gonzalez went 2-for-3. ... Left fielder Kevin Mench was out of Texas' starting lineup because of a bone bruise on his right hand, but he entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. ... Park is 1-8 with a 7.00 ERA in 13 career starts against Oakland. ... Crosby has 16 RBI against Texas this season.