OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Reality has set in for the Oakland Athletics after all their hard work to rebound from an awful start and make another run at the AL West title: They must sweep four games from the Angels to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
“The door’s still open,” third baseman Eric Chavez said. “It’s a little crack, but it’s open.”
Dan Johnson hit a two-run homer in the second, but Oakland failed to gain ground on AL West-leading Los Angeles. The A’s remained four games behind the Angels, who lost 8-4 at home to Tampa Bay.
The Angels come to the Coliseum for a crucial four-game series starting Monday night, and Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia is already leaning toward using ace Bartolo Colon on three days’ rest for Thursday’s series finale against Barry Zito.
“It’s going to be disappointing if we don’t win it because we battled all this way,” said Chavez, whose team overcame a 7-20 May that featured two eight-game losing streaks. “I don’t know if people thought we could win it, but we thought we could win it. Obviously, this is a miracle we’re going to have to be going for right now.”
Juan Dominguez pitched 7 1-3 strong innings for Texas, which took two of three from the A’s after being swept in Anaheim following a five-game winning streak.
Barajas hit a high shot into the bleachers in left-center with one out in the fourth, his 21st of the season. That gave Texas a 4-2 lead. Young’s double three batters later made it 5-2, and Texas held that lead after blowing a three-run cushion in Saturday’s 7-6 loss.
“Whenever you play teams fighting for the playoffs, good quality teams, you want to try to win series, and we were able to do that here,” Barajas said.
“I left a small army,” Kotsay said.
All the missed opportunities mean the A’s must be near perfect in their last seven games.
“You’re still breathing if you take three of four (from the Angels), but you need big help then,” manager Ken Macha said. “Tomorrow, we’re going to shoot all our bullets to win that game. Then you worry about the next day.”
A’s right-hander Rich Harden, sidelined since Aug. 19 with a strained muscle beneath his throwing shoulder, pitched a scoreless eighth, two days after a subpar simulated game in which he didn’t use his changeup. He pitched out of the windup Sunday, and while his velocity was slightly down, the A’s hope he will be able pitch out of the bullpen again during the series with the Angels.
“He looked great,” assistant general manager David Forst said.
Harden, determined to help any way he can, felt so good he wants to start in the final week, though Macha said it wouldn’t happen. He has Joe Kennedy penciled in for Tuesday.
“It’s something I would love to do, but I don’t know if they’ll let it happen,” Harden said.
Young matched the third-longest hitting streak in club history with his double against Kirk Saarloos (10-8). Saarloos allowed five runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings, struck out three and walked three, throwing 91 pitches a week after beating Boston 12-3 at Fenway Park.
Dominguez (4-5) didn’t walk a batter and earned his second victory in September after a three-start winless stretch, including a 9-8 loss to the A’s at home on Sept. 9.
After Johnson’s homer in the second, Dominguez retired the next eight batters he faced before a fifth-inning jam. Oakland loaded the bases, but Dominguez struck out Kotsay with a nasty changeup to escape the threat.
Oakland had runners at first and third with none out in the eighth but couldn’t capitalize.
Johnson, one of several rookies making huge contributions for the A’s, connected for his 15th home run with two outs in the second. He doubled in the fifth.
The Rangers got five hits from the bottom two spots in the batting order— two from Barajas and three from Jason Botts to match his career high.
Harden made the third relief appearance of his career and first since Sept. 28, 2003, vs. Seattle. … Texas OF David Dellucci missed his fifth straight game with a strained left calf muscle, but manager Buck Showalter expects him to play Tuesday at Seattle. … Rangers OF Kevin Mench got most of the day off to rest his sore thumb, entering in the eighth as a defensive replacement. … The A’s raised $141,740 during their seventh annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day.