The Athletics and Texas Rangers once again sit atop the AL West standings together after Oakland held on for a 4-2 win Monday in the opener of a critical three-game series at O.co Coliseum.
Coco Crisp belted a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth inning and Yoenis Cespedes added a solo blast for the A's, who have won seven of their last eight to pull even with the Rangers.
Grant Balfour put the tying run on second base in the ninth but escaped with his 36th save after getting Ian Kinsler on a fly out to right and Adrian Beltre on a groundout to third.
"I'm enjoying the (pennant) race...as long as we finish on top," Balfour said.
Four Oakland relievers combined for four scoreless innings after Dan Straily (8-7) allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in the first five frames.
Texas has dropped three of four and couldn't get much going offensively outside of David Murphy's two-run homer. The club went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base.
"We gave ourselves opportunities...we just didn't take advantage," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Derek Holland (9-7) was touched for four runs -- three earned -- on five hits and five walks in just 4 2/3 innings. It was the first time since June 6 the left-hander failed to work through the sixth -- a span of 14 starts.
Cespedes got the scoring started in the second inning when he crushed a 2-2 fastball over the wall in left-center for his 21st home run of the season.
Alberto Callaspo doubled two batters later and scored on Chris Young's base hit to center field. Young never stopped running when his single skipped by Leonys Martin, but the combination of his stutter step around third base and a textbook relay resulted in Young getting thrown out at the plate.
Murphy tied it in the fifth with a towering shot to straightaway center, and Crisp responded in the bottom half with his own two-run blast. Crisp's drive down the left-field line nicked the left side of foul pole just above the wall, and a replay review confirmed the leadoff hitter's seventh home run in his last 12 games.
Dan Otero relieved Straily to start the sixth and put himself in a bases- loaded, one-out jam he managed to escape. Beltre failed to tag up on Lance Berkman's sharp line drive to right field, and Murphy grounded out to second to leave the bags full.
Brett Anderson, in his second relief appearance since being activated from the disabled list, tossed 1 1/3 scoreless frames, and Ryan Cook stranded a pair in the eighth when Young made a running catch on Berkman's line drive to right- center.
Oakland last held a share of first place on Aug. 9 ... Crisp set a career-high with his 17th home run of the season ... Michael Choice made his big-league debut for the A's and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored as their designated hitter ... Holland suffered his first loss since July 25 and failed in his fifth attempt to join Kenny Rogers as the only Texas lefties with three consecutive 10-win seasons ... The Rangers have allowed five runs or less in 30 consecutive games, the major's sixth longest streak in one season since 1961 ... Texas had won 11 straight in AL West parks.