OAKLAND, Calif. — Unlike early September last year, the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers are neck and neck chasing the AL West title.
Both clubs are ready for this race to go right down to the end — again.
Coco Crisp hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth that was confirmed by a video review, and the A’s pulled into a first-place tie with Texas by beating the Rangers 4-2 on Monday.
“You enjoy the race,” A’s closer Grant Balfour said. “I’d like to say we’re sitting here 10 games up.”
Yoenis Cespedes homered leading off the second inning and Chris Young added an RBI single in Oakland’s fourth straight win. David Murphy hit a tying two-run shot in the Texas fifth for his first homer since Aug. 1. But the Rangers loaded the bases against Dan Otero with one out in the sixth and couldn’t deliver.
Crisp set a career high with his 17th homer that stayed just fair of the left-field foul pole, topping his 16 for Cleveland in 2005. He homered for the third straight game to help the A’s (79-58) move a season-best 21 games over .500.
“I didn’t think it was going to stay fair,” he said.
Crisp fouled a ball off the area below his right knee in the sixth. He stayed in and struck out, and then was removed for what the team called a shin contusion. Crisp said he felt fine afterward.
In games so meaningful, he will do all he can to stay on the field.
“It’s a back and forth that kind of pumps your blood a little bit,” Crisp said. “Obviously you want to be close or you want to be in front, in first place or as far in front as possible. We’re fortunate we’re in the situation we are now.”
A’s lefty reliever Brett Anderson, pitching at home for the first time since April 29, worked a 10-pitch seventh, helped by Ian Kinsler’s inning-ending double play. Ryan Cook worked out of a jam in the eighth and Balfour finished for his 36th save in 38 tries as the Rangers left the tying run at second.
“I was running on fumes,” Balfour said of pitching for the fourth time in five days. “I was just trying to pitch with some guts.”
Oakland won for the seventh time in eight games and is hoping for another strong September like its 17-11 showing last year on the way to the West crown on the final day.
The Rangers, who were unable to hold off streaking Oakland last year, fell out of sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 9, the last time the A’s shared the lead.
“I expect it to go all the way down to the end. Division champs over there,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I don’t expect them to go away and I certainly don’t expect us to go away. Everything goes through Oakland. Doesn’t matter where positioned in the standings right now.”
If Washington intended to put a target on the A’s, manager Bob Melvin quipped, “I’ll flip it back to him.”
The Rangers had their three-game road winning streak snapped with just their third defeat in the last 15 games away from Arlington.
Young singled in a second run for the A’s three batters after Cespedes connected for his 21st homer, against Derek Holland (9-7). Center fielder Leonys Martin missed the ball on Young’s base hit and it got past him for a two-base error. Young tried to score on the play and was thrown out at home after stumbling slightly rounding third.
“We’re playing OK, maybe not our best, and we’re tied for first with a team playing well, too,” Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “We’ll take our chances. Our destiny is in our hands.”
Top A’s prospect Michael Choice went 0 for 2 with a walk in his major league debut as the designated hitter.
Dan Straily (8-7) pitched five innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time since early July, putting together two solid outings following a seven-start winless stretch in which he went 0-5.
“You come out there and understand the magnitude of the situation, and you’re very determined to get the job done,” Straily said.
Cespedes singled in the fifth for consecutive multihit games as the A’s began a stretch with 19 of their final 26 games against divisional opponents.
Lance Berkman started at DH and went 0 for 4 one day after Texas activated him from the disabled list. He had been out since July 7 with left hip inflammation and a sore surgically repaired right knee.
The Rangers won three of the teams’ first four series this year — and, after this week, the clubs play once more in Arlington from Sept. 13-15.
NOTES: Holland allowed more than one home run for just the third time all year. … The A’s are 14-4 when Cespedes homers. … Oakland is 20-22 vs. the West since May 19 compared to 41-18 against other opponents. … The Rangers will recall RHP Ross Wolf and OFs Engel Beltre and Joey Butler on Tuesday.