A’s take series at Texas, cut AL West gap to 71/2
ARLINGTON, Texas – Gio Gonzalez provided quite a follow-up to Dallas Braden, going to a near extreme to copy his Oakland teammate while pitching the Athletics to a series-clinching victory over AL West-leading Texas.
A day after Braden threw a shutout, Gonzalez limited the Rangers to two runs over six innings Sunday to win his third straight start, an 8-2 victory that cut Oakland’s division deficit to 71/2 games.
“I was just trying to follow in the footsteps behind a guy who pitched a great game,” Gonzalez said. “The Rangers are a great hitting team, but we’ve been doing our homework. We sat down and went through it with Dallas. He gave me a pep talk on each one of them and it worked.”
Gonzalez (12-8) left with a 7-2 lead after throwing 65 of his 95 pitches for strikes on another hot day in Texas. The left-hander, now 7-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 day games this season, even talked to the baseball – a la Braden.
“I had a pep talk with the baseball today … It’s the first time. I guess he’s rubbing off too much on me,” Gonzalez said. “After Hamilton’s homer, I got the ball and started yelling at it. ‘C’mon, do your job.’ Then the baseball told me to calm down. I’m losing my mind.”
Josh Hamilton drove in both Texas runs, with a two-out bloop RBI single in the third and his 31st homer in the sixth. Hamilton has five homers his past 10 games and raised his majors-best batting average to .359.
Hamilton’s 403-foot blast off the facade of the second deck of seats in right field was the only homer Gonzalez allowed his last seven starts.
Mark Ellis and Kevin Kouzmanoff homered for the A’s off Colby Lewis (9-11), while Cliff Pennington snapped out of a 2-for-24 slide with two singles and a sacrifice squeeze bunt.
Lewis missed on his eighth attempt to get his 10th victory, and six of the season-high seven runs he gave up in 5 2-3 innings were earned. The unearned run came after his throwing error on what should have been an inning-ending double play.
“You have a job to do, period. Apparently, I didn’t do it today,” Lewis said. “I didn’t make pitches when I needed to, and of course didn’t make a play when I needed to. Definitely, I take that burden.”
There is only one more series between the AL West’s top two teams the final five weeks of the regular season. That is a four-game set Sept. 23-26 at Oakland, which has an 8-7 series lead after winning the pitching gems by Braden and Gonzalez.
“Don’t count us out yet. We’re still fighting,” Gonzalez said.
“Nobody’s given up on this. Everybody’s trying to win every single game. These guys fight all the time,” manager Bob Geren said when asked if his team could catch Texas. “If our offense continues to swing the bats the way they are and match the great pitching we have, then yes, definitely.”
Lewis had his shortest outing since pitching only five innings July 16 at Boston when he got his ninth victory. Lewis is 0-6 since and Texas has scored only eight runs while he was on the mound in those eight games.
“We got outpitched today, got outpitched yesterday. Pitching stops everything,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We lost two games, that’s all it was.”
Oakland went ahead to stay when Ellis broke a 1-all tie with his third homer, a towering flyball that dropped just beyond the 14-foot wall in left-center field.
The A’s scored twice in the fifth for a 4-1 lead after Lewis’ throwing error on Kurt Suzuki’s comebacker. Lewis threw the ball way wide of second base and into center. Pennington scored and Daric Barton moved from first to third before then scoring on an inning-ending double play.
“It was just a normal play … I just didn’t make the throw,” Lewis said. “I don’t think it was the turning point. I gave up eight hits, two of them hard-hit. That was it. They singled me to death.”
First baseman Jorge Cantu then snagged Jack Cust’s hard grounder at the bag, wiping out the force at second. Suzuki got caught up between first and second and avoided being tagged long enough for Barton to score.
Kouzmanoff led off the sixth with his 12th homer, before consecutive singles set up Pennington’s squeeze bunt and Coco Crisp’s RBI single to chase Lewis.
NOTES: Oakland is 30-13 in day games, best in the majors. … Texas plays its next 10 games on the road. … The Rangers plan to activate RF Nelson Cruz (right hamstring) from the disabled list before Monday night’s game in Kansas City. He played three rehab games for Double-A Frisco. … Washington said every Texas pitcher in the rotation will get an extra day off rest with the upcoming off day Thursday. That includes struggling Cliff Lee, who has pitched every fifth day for Texas since he was acquired July 9.
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