The Oakland Athletics are on the move—again.
Fresh off taking over first place in the AL West, the surging A’s will try for their seventh straight win as they continue a four-game series with the slumping Texas Rangers.
Adam Melhuse hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning, Erubiel Durazo went 3-for-4 and drove in a big insurance run and the Oakland bullpen tossed 6 2-3 shutout innings in a series-opening 7-6 victory Thursday.
Mark McLemore homered for the first time since May 23, 2003, and drove in three runs to help Oakland move into first place for the first time since July 6.
Oakland’s second-half surge is nothing new. The A’s used late runs to reach the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons.
Three years ago, the A’s had three winning streaks of at least six games after the All-Star break, including a 10-game run in the beginning of August. In 2002, they ripped off an astonishing 20 straight wins from Aug. 13-Sept. 4. Then last year, they had a 10-game and seven-game win streak in the second half.
Thursday’s victory marked the beginning of a demanding 11-game road trip for Oakland. After this series, the A’s will play three games against the AL East-leading New York Yankees and four more at AL Central-leading Minnesota.
“We’re playing some teams that are the top teams in the league, and you want to consider yourself among those teams,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “So we’ll get a chance to see how we stack up.”
Texas led the division by 4 1/2 games after beating Oakland last Friday. It was the biggest lead any team has had in the AL West this season. But the Rangers squandered the advantage by losing three straight and five of six.
“It’s still July, as far as I’m concerned, and there’s no need to be discouraged,” Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. “We’ve gone through some rough stretches this year and we’ve bounced back from every one of these and gotten better. This won’t be any different.”
The Rangers did get some good news Friday. Alfonso Soriano snapped out of his 1-for-25 funk with a two-run home run and red-hot Mark Teixeira added his 12th home run of July. The slugging first baseman is also batting .304 (28-for-92) with 29 RBIs this month.