Arlington, TX – The suddenly light-hitting Texas Rangers took a while to heat up, but the Oakland Athletics did just enough to hold them off.
It's becoming another September to remember for the A's.
Yoenis Cespedes smacked a three-run homer, while Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss cracked solo shots as Oakland held off Texas, 9-8, in the opener of a critical three-game set.
The A's had a 9-2 advantage after seven innings before the Rangers, who tallied just two hits through the first seven frames, erupted for six runs in the home eighth.
Adrian Beltre stepped up with the tying run, Alex Rios, at first with two outs in the frame. He ripped a base hit into left against Sean Doolittle, but Cespedes threw out Rios at third on a bang-bang play to end the threat.
Doolittle picked up the final four outs to notch his second save of the year. Robinson Chirinos slapped a two-out double down the right field line in the ninth, but Doolittle struck out Jurickson Profar to end the game.
Oakland, which was three games behind the Rangers on Aug. 30, has won 11 of 14 since and now hold a 4 1/2-game lead over them in the AL West.
Texas, meanwhile, has dropped nine of its last 11 tilts.
"We're not out of it, we've still got fight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We're going to come back tomorrow and still fight and we're going to get it right. We never quit. We just didn't win the game."
The Rangers led the division from mid-April to late September in 2012, but dropped nine of their last 13 to close the year as Oakland took the division on the final day of the season.
Donaldson also added a two-run double for Oakland, which had dropped four of its five prior meetings to the Rangers in Arlington this season.
Dan Straily (10-7), who was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA over his last three starts coming in, surrendered two runs on two hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings in the triumph.
"We're in a fight and I wasn't bringing it," Straily said of his early struggles. "Luckily I was able to find something inside of me and turn it around."
Derek Holland (9-9) yielded six runs on eight hits and a walk over three-plus innings for Texas. The left-hander is winless in seven outings since allowing four hits over eight shutout innings against Oakland on Aug. 4.
Cespedes belted his three-run blast into the Oakland bullpen in the opening frame before Texas responded with Beltre's one-out RBI single and A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly to cut the gap to 3-2.
The A's, though, plated a run in the third, a pair in the fourth, two more in the fifth and another in the sixth to build their seven-run cushion.
Donaldson drilled a leadoff shot into the front row of seats in left in the third and ripped a slicing two-run double into the gap in right-center in the fourth.
Kurt Suzuki worked a bases-loaded walk and Coco Crisp lifted a sacrifice fly to center in the fifth and Moss' long ball in the sixth gave the A's a 9-2 cushion.
Leonys Martin had an RBI single, Ian Kinsler worked a bases-loaded walk, and Elvis Andrus and Rios both registered two-run base hits to get Texas back into the contest in the eighth.
Holland gave up four runs and walked a career-high five over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the A's on Sept. 2 ... Beltre, who was 5-for-31 over his last eight tilts coming in, had three hits.