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A's erase deficit, take series from Cards

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Down by three runs on two occasions early in Sunday's game against the hard-hitting St. Louis Cardinals, the Oakland Athletics used pitching and defense to turn things around.

Getting a couple of home runs didn't hurt, either.

Jed Lowrie belted a lead-flipping homer in the fourth inning, Josh Donaldson contributed two defensive gems and hit an insurance home run in the seventh, and the Oakland bullpen shut down the Cardinals on one hit over the final three innings as the A's completed an interleague series win with a 7-5 victory.

In taking two of three from the Cardinals, the second-place A's remained a half-game behind the American League West-leading Texas Rangers while improving their interleague record to 9-3.

"That would be fun," Donaldson said of a matchup with the 2011 champs in the World Series. "I don't think you can say it's not in the picture."

Lowrie's home run, his fifth, came an inning after he allowed Matt Holliday's routine grounder to roll through his legs for a run-producing error that extended St. Louis' lead to 5-2.

The defensive mishap was the one and only blemish on a highlight-reel afternoon for the A's.

Oakland got a sensational diving catch from center fielder Coco Crisp when starting pitcher Tommy Milone (7-7) was struggling big-time in the first. Third baseman Donaldson made an inning-ending catch while tumbling over the tarp in the fourth. In the seventh, second baseman Eric Sogard made a running catch well into right field, and Donaldson had a run-saving, diving stop two batters later.

"One really stood out," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Oakland's defensive efforts. "That play by the second baseman (Sogard) when Yadi (Yadier Molina) was trying to get the runner (Matt Carpenter) over (to third base). That could have turned the game around."

Carpenter had two doubles and his seventh home run for the Cardinals, recording three extra-base hits in the same game for the first time in his career.

After the A's narrowed the gap to 5-4 with a two-run third, Lowrie followed a double by Chris Young with a second-pitch blast over the 362-foot sign in right field off Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook (4-3).

Young entered the game in the top of the inning after Crisp complained of back spasms and was given the rest of the day off.

"You give up a run, you want to do something to get that back," Lowrie said of his mind-set in the wake of his costly error. "(Westbrook) got a pitch up in the zone and, fortunately, I was able to hit it out of the park."

Donaldson went the opposite way to nearly duplicate the trajectory of Lowrie's homer in the seventh, a two-out solo shot off Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal that extended the A's lead to 7-5.

Afterward, Donaldson was more excited to talk about his run-in with the tarp, a catch on which he was having his legs taken out from under him as he was latching onto the ball. The play stranded two Cardinals baserunners, ended the St. Louis fourth at 5-4 and set the stage for Lowrie's game-changing homer.

"That reminded me of football, getting hit at the knees," Donaldson said. "I've always wanted to go over the tarp to catch one."

Milone snapped a two-game losing streak despite surrendering three Cardinals home runs, including two to the first four batters of the game.

Relievers Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour protected Milone's lead over the final three innings, with Balfour recording his 19th save in 19 opportunities with a hitless ninth.

St. Louis lost for the sixth time in the last eight games despite back-to-back in the top of the first inning, Carlos Beltran's two-run homer, his 19th, and cleanup hitter Allen Craig's ninth.

"That was the kind of game I anticipated having. Obviously, I hoped we'd be on the other side (of the final score)," Matheny said. "We knew coming in (to the series) it was going to be good competition."

The A's out-hit the Cardinals, 12-8.

NOTES: The A's finished June with a 16-11 record, their seventh consecutive winning month. ... The Cardinals went just 14-14 in June after a 20-7 May. ... The three home runs allowed by Milone raised his season total to 19, which is tied with Kansas City's Jeremy Guthrie for the most in the majors. ... Oakland RHP Jerrod Parker, who had to be pulled in the fourth inning Saturday because of a right hamstring injury, reported to the ballpark in some pain Sunday morning. Thus, the A's could not confirm whether he would be able to make his scheduled start Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. Parker is slated to throw a bullpen session Tuesday to determine his availability for Thursday. Minor-leaguers Dan Straily and Sonny Gray are on stand-by if Parker cannot make the start. ... Cardinals 1B Matt Adams, who had his first career multi-homer game in Saturday's 7-1 win, was a late scratch from Sunday's starting lineup because of what was called food poisoning. He was called upon to pinch-hit with one out in the ninth and struck out against Balfour. ... Both teams are off Monday.
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