Rangers rally; Hamilton hits 43rd HR
Adrian Beltre singled home the winning run in the ninth inning and the Texas Rangers rallied past Oakland 5-4 on Monday night to stretch their AL West lead over the Athletics to five games with nine to play.
Beltre, whose 35th homer tied the score in the seventh, grounded a sharp single through the middle of the infield off Tyson Ross (2-11) in the ninth, bringing home pinch-runner Craig Gentry to end the opener of a four-game series.
The Rangers got the inning started with consecutive singles by Mitch Moreland and Ian Kinsler before Elvis Andrus' sacrifice bunt. Josh Hamilton, who had already hit his major league-best 43rd homer after missing the previous five games with a cornea issue, was intentionally walked to load the bases for Beltre.
Joe Nathan (3-4), the sixth Rangers pitcher, struck out two in the ninth. That included a strikeout of Seth Smith as Stephen Drew was caught stealing to end the inning.
It was the first of seven meetings in the last 10 days of the regular season between the two-time defending American League champion Rangers and A's, who have lost six of seven after winning 17 of their previous 21 games.
Oakland has a two-game lead over the idle Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card.
Beltre hit a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh to tie the game at 4, a shot that came with Hamilton on base.
A's rookie right-hander Dan Straily struck out eight and left with a 4-2 lead after 6 2-3 innings with Hamilton due to bat and the bases empty.
Dean Blevins walked Hamilton, the only batter he faced, before Pat Neshek gave up the two-run drive to Beltre.
It was Neshek who allowed Raul Ibanez's tying, two-run homer to cap a four-run 13th inning Saturday by the AL East-leading New York Yankees, who then won on a two-out error in the 14th - a game that Ross also lost.
Hamilton hit a 441-foot solo homer in the fifth that landed in the second deck of seats high above the Rangers' bullpen in right-center to get Texas within 3-2.
Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes homered for Oakland, and Cliff Pennington had an RBI single in the sixth.
Donaldson lined a two-run shot deep into the left-field seats in the second off Derek Holland. Cespedes hit a two-out solo homer, his 21st, for a 3-1 lead an inning later.
Holland pitched only three innings, his shortest outing since May 30 when the left-hander gave up eight runs over 1 2-3 innings in the Rangers' 21-8 home loss to Seattle.
The Rangers got an unearned run in the second when Michael Young was hit by a pitch before Donaldson's error at third base. Young scored on Moreland's bloop single that ended a string of 24 consecutive at-bats by the Rangers with runners in scoring position without a hit.
Hamilton's homer was followed by consecutive doubles by Beltre and Nelson Cruz that failed to produce a run. Beltre was picked off second after wandering too far off the base on a pitch in the dirt that catcher Derek Norris quickly recovered.
NOTES: CF Coco Crisp was out of the A's starting lineup for the sixth game in a row because of an infection in both eyes. Manager Bob Melvin said Crisp has seen three doctors but his condition hasn't improved much. ... Holland is 6-0 in 10 September starts the past two seasons. ... After giving up three consecutive extra-base hits in the fifth, Straily retired the last six batters he faced.