ARLINGTON, Texas -- The American League West has yet to be decided, but the Oakland A's are taking a tighter grip on the division with each passing day.
Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson combined to drive in six runs, and Dan Straily earned his 10th win as Oakland slipped past the Texas Rangers 9-8 Friday night in the opener of a critical three-game series.
"Good game to win," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
While the A's and Rangers jostled for the top spot in the West most of the season, Oakland is pulling away going into the season's final few weeks. The A's (86-61) own a 4 1/2-game lead over Texas (81-65) heading into Saturday afternoon's second game at Rangers Ballpark.
Oakland has won 11 of its past 14 games to pick up 7 1/2 games on Texas in the standings. The Rangers have lost four straight, are 3-10 in September and are quickly losing their hold on the wild-card lead.
"We're not out," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We still have fight in us."
The A's lead the majors in home runs over the last month, and they added three more Friday. Cespedes, Donaldson and Brandon Moss each went deep, as Oakland pounded out 14 hits.
"It was great," Melvin said of the offense. "Not only were we getting hits, but long counts and walks. At the end of the day, that was a pretty good battle."
Straily (10-7) wasn't particularly sharp during his 5 2/3 innings, but with a hefty lead, it didn't matter. The right-hander has won four straight and is the 11th rookie in club history to win at least 10 games.
The Rangers were down 9-2 before exploding for six runs in the eighth. All the scoring came with two outs, with Oakland going through four pitchers in the inning. Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios each had two-run singles.
The rally ended with a hit, as Adrian Beltre singled to left and Rios was thrown out trying to go from first to third. Rios argued the call to no avail, though replays appeared to show he beat Cespedes' throw. Rios was ejected.
"From where I was, it looked like his feet got in there and (A's third baseman Donaldson) tagged him high," Washington said.
Texas added to the dramatics in the ninth with a two-out double by Robinson Chirinos. Sean Doolittle left him stranded, striking out Jurickson Profar to end the game and pick up his second save this season.
"We usually lock those games down, but we didn't," Melvin said. "We put ourselves in position to potentially lose this game."
Oakland knocked out Derek Holland (9-9) with no outs in the fourth, continuing a trend of poor Texas starting pitching. Holland was tagged for six runs on eight hits in his shortest outing of the season.
"He wasn't effective," Washington said. "That simple."
The A's didn't waste any time jumping on Holland, taking a 3-0 lead in the first on Cespedes' 415-foot bomb. Coco Crisp and Donaldson got on to open the game before Cespedes deposited a 0-2 pitch into Oakland's bullpen for his 23rd homer.
Texas got two runs back in the bottom of the frame. Straily walked the first two Rangers, Ian Kinsler and Andrus, and they scored on a single by Beltre and a sacrifice fly from A.J. Pierzynski.
Holland was victimized by another long ball in the third, as Donaldson took the first pitch of the inning over the wall in left. A smattering of boos were heard around the ballpark. Donaldson added a two-run double in the fourth.
"This was just horrendous," Holland said of his performance.
Oakland added to its lead with two runs in the fifth to go up 8-2. Texas relievers walked three in the inning, including one with the bases loaded.
NOTES: Oakland starters are 16-5 record (in 29 games) since Aug. 14. ... Texas RHP Colby Lewis said Friday that his preference is to return to the Rangers next season if possible. Lewis has been out all season after flexor tendon surgery in his right elbow. ... After scoring no more than three runs in three straight games, the A's have scored at least six in the last three. ... Texas agreed to terms with 16-year-old Dominican INF Yimmelvyn Alonzo for $350,000, according reports. Alonzo is ranked No. 18 on MLB.com's top international prospects list.