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A's pull into first-place tie with Rangers

The SportsXchange

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With 25 games left to play, nothing separates the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers in the American West.

The A's pulled into a first-place tie Monday afternoon, beating the Rangers 4-2 in the opener of a three-game series at the O.co Coliseum.

Oakland's Coco Crisp hit his career-high 17th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fifth inning, and Yoenis Cespedes ripped his 21st home run of the year, a solo shot in the second.

David Murphy hit a two-run homer in the fifth for the Rangers.

Last year the A's made a furious comeback and passed the Rangers on the final day of the season to win the West. This year, they're both 79-58 heading down the backstretch.

"It's nice," Crisp said of catching the Rangers. "Obviously you want to be close or you want to be in front in first place or as far in front as possible. You can't do much about that except go out there and play as hard as you can."

A's right-hander Dan Straily (8-7) pitched five innings for the win, allowing two runs on three hits, while striking out four and walking three.

"That's your whole goal, just set the tone," Straily said. "Not just for the game, but for the series, especially for games of this magnitude. We knew coming into this month that we had six games against the Rangers. We got to take care of business here and take care of business the rest of the month too. Pressure maybe isn't the right word, but definitely you come out there and you understand the magnitude of the situation and are very determined to get your job done."

The Rangers have lost three of their past four games. This is the first time they haven't owned sole possession of first in the West since Aug. 9 when they were tied with the A's.

"We're playing OK," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "I don't think we're playing our best baseball right now, and we are tied for first with a team that's playing really well, too. We'll take our chances. We have two more games to go here, and we're going to face those guys back at home three more times. I think our destiny's in our hands. So we'll see what happens."

Rangers left-hander Derek Holland (9-7) took the loss. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs -- three earned -- and five hits, including two homers. He walked five, matching his season high, and struck out a season-low one. Holland came into the game with a 5-2 mark and 2.64 ERA for his career against the A's.

"I just didn't execute my pitches, plain and simple," Holland said. "Fell behind, walked people. You can't really defend walks. I was all-around terrible."

The A's grabbed a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second against Holland. Leading off, Cespedes faced a 2-2 count and ripped a 95 mph fastball over the left-center wall. He snapped a 13-game homerless streak. Going into the game, Cespedes had only two hits in 11 at-bats against Holland, but both of those hits were home runs.

The A's made it 2-0 when Alberto Callaspo lined a one-out double to left and scored on Chris Young's sharp single to center.

The Rangers pulled even in the top of the fifth on Murphy's two-run shot, his 13th blast of the year.

But in the bottom of the frame, Crisp answered with a two-run shot to left after rookie Michael Choice, leading off, reached on a throwing error by Beltre. Crisp's homer hit the foul pole just above the short fence in left. Rangers manager Ron Washington immediately asked for and received a video review, but the call stood, and the A's took a 4-2 lead. Crisp homered for the third straight game and has seven homers in his past 12 games.

"I saw the ball go foul," Washington said. "I didn't see it hit the pole. Once I got back from letting them know I would like a replay, one of the guys told me it nicked the pole. Game of inches."

Crisp fouled a ball off his right shin in the bottom of the sixth and, after striking out, left the game. A's manager Bob Melvin said he wasn't sure whether Crisp would be able to play Tuesday.

A's relievers Dan Otero, Brett Anderson, Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour combined to blank the Rangers over the final four innings. Balfour got his 36th save, pitching out of jam in the ninth after the Rangers put two runners on with no outs.

The Rangers left 11 runners on base and went 0-9 with runners in scoring position.

"I said before the game started, that it's going to be three games of opportunities and who takes advantage of them," Washington said. "We put ourselves in more opportunities, we just didn't take advantage of them all."

NOTES: Rangers outfielder/DH Lance Berkman, who was activated Sunday from the disabled list, made his first appearance since July 6, starting at designated hitter. He went 0-for-4 but hit the ball hard twice. ... Choice, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2010 draft, made his major league debut Monday, starting at designated hitter his hometown team. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and scored a run. Choice attended Arlington's Timberview High School and the University of Texas-Arlington. ... Rangers SS Elvis Andrus (back spasms) missed his second straight game. ... The Rangers announced that they would promote three more players from Triple-A Round Rock on Tuesday: right-hander Ross Wolf and outfielders Engel Beltre and Joey Butler.
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