Balfour, A's confident with A.L. West on the line

903555.jpg

Balfour, A's confident with A.L. West on the line

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND -- For the A's the formula is simple: Just keep winning and all these Wild Card and tiebreaker scenarios are irrelevant. Take down Texas, win the American League West, and pop more champagne on Wednesday. "Who would have thought we would be here," Grant Balfour said. "I know we did. I know the whole team did. We believe in ourselves. I don't know about anyone else but as long as we believe inside this clubhouse and we know we can get it done then we're going to do it.

"I honestly believe we are going to win tomorrow," Balfour added. The A's are one win away from achieving the truly improbable after beating the Rangers 3-1. They are now tied for the lead in the American League West with one game remaining and have already punched their ticket to the postseason.RECAP: Pratt's Instant Replay -- A's 3, Rangers 1
"Says a lot about this ballclub, says a lot about our manager, says a lot about our office," Jonny Gomes said. "Giving the guys the opportunity and chance to come up here and succeed." On June 30, the A's were 13 games behind the Rangers in the division. Since then they have gone a Major League best 56-26. They play at 12:35 p.m. tomorrow in what is basically an American League West championship game. "Regardless it's the same for both tomorrow," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You'll see two teams go after it pretty hard tomorrow. We've had a nice run to get back into this position." The Rangers sent an All-Star starting pitcher to the mound in Matt Harrison. He is the second pitcher in Rangers history to win 18 games and have an ERA below 3.30. The A's sent a journeyman rookie to the mound that had an ERA of 7.00 with a 1-2 record in his previous four starts against the Rangers. That pitcher was Travis Blackley, and he came back like a boomerang to earn the win, the 53rd by an A's rookie this season, which is a Major League record. "I think that just sums up the A's of 2012," Gomes said. "You can say that about Josh Donaldson, you could say that about Cliff Pennington, one of the things I've always said is success is contagious. Let's not forget he's a good pitcher." On September 27, Josh Reddick shaved his facial hair. He hit two homers later that day. Travis Blackley decided to shear off his beard too and it worked. He allowed just one run over six innings of work, after allowing nine in his previous three innings prior to shaving."I'm letting it go," Blackley said. "This is the playoff beard it is starting to come back."Blackley struck out Geovany Soto looking with a big bender with runners on the corners and two outs in the second. He struck out Elvis Andrus swinging after Reddick dropped a foul ball in right field, and induced a double play immediately after Josh Donaldson allowed Nelson Cruz to reach on an error in the fourth inning. He had his mettle tested and passed with flying colors. "As a group we've picked each other up all year," Melvin said. "Whether it's the pitchers picking up a defensive player, or hitters picking up a pitcher, the timing has been really good here in the second half." "I just went out there and went at them like I had nothing to lose," Blackley said. "It worked out." The crowd of 30,066 at the Oakland Coliseum was jumping. Scattered across the crowd were jerseys baring the names of A's castoffs like Rich Harden, Eric Chavez, and Gio Gonzalez. Old laundry aside, the fans hung on every pitch, and exploded when Jonny Gomes connected on his 18th homer of the year in the sixth inning to put the A's up 3-1. "I did the same thing in '08 in Tampa with one of the best record in baseball and no attendance," Gomes said. "You win and they'll come. Any sport, any level, any age, you win and they'll come."The A's fell behind 1-0 after a Josh Hamilton RBI double in the third inning. They took the lead back by scoring two runs in the fifth inning when Derek Norris hit an RBI single that was misplayed in right field. Grant Balfour pitched for the fourth time in as many days and dispatched the Rangers three up, three down for his 24th save of the season. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy when the last out was recorded and could still be heard chanting "Let's go Oakland!" as Melvin's postgame press conference was beginning. The players want to do everything in their power to make sure they have the same crowd on their side for the playoffs. "I guess you look at the big picture and sure home field advantage throughout is pretty big," Gomes said. "These guys have done a great job of tunnel vision. This isn't game seven of the World Series. This isn't win or go home. "We're going to play loose, we're going to have fun and just continue to pass the torch," Gomes added. "Hopefully tomorrow we get our pitching, defense, and homers and that's been it for us." The homers have been there for Oakland all season against Texas. Their 26 homers against the Rangers are the most they have hit against any team. The A's are now a season-high 25 games over .500 and are 5-0 on the this final homestand. One more win could change everything for the 2012 Oakland Athletics.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's streak-extending win over Astros

BOX SCORE

The A’s took a noteworthy step toward changing the narrative in their recent history against the Houston Astros.

Coming through during clutch moments, both at the plate and on the mound, Oakland beat baseball’s best team 6-4 Tuesday at Minute Maid Park to run their winning streak to four.

Ryon Healy hit his first career grand slam to snap a 1-1 tie in the sixth, and starter Sean Manaea notched his first victory in seven career starts against the Astros, throwing 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball.

George Springer’s three-run homer off Liam Hendriks pulled Houston to within two runs in the ninth, but with two runners aboard, Santiago Casilla coaxed a 3-6-1 double play from Brian McCann to end it.

The A’s (35-42), who have stumbled so badly on the road for the majority of this season, moved to 4-0 on this six-game road trip and defeated the Astros (52-26) for just the second time in their past 17 meetings with them.

Key two-out rallies: They came in with a majors-worst .225 average with runners in scoring position, but the A’s delivered in some key at-bats and scored five of their six runs with two outs. Bruce Maxwell singled home Khris Davis in the second to get the A’s on the board. Then with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, with the score 1-1, Ryon Healy capped an eight-pitch at-bat with an opposite-field grand slam, his 18th homer of the season.

Making himself at home: Sean Manaea (7-4) flirted with danger throughout his 5 2/3 innings but wound up registering his first victory in seven career starts against Houston. He stranded two runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, then wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth with minimal damage. With no outs and the bags filled, Manaea fell behind 3-0 to Evan Gattis. Gattis chased a low pitch that would have been ball four and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored on the play but that play defused the rally and Manaea escaped with just the one run scoring that kept it a 1-1 game. The lefty gave up nine hits, but he’s now allowed just one earned run over three career starts at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park (16 IP).

Madson comes up clutch: Ryan Madson took two losses in four appearances at Minute Maid Park last season and allowed five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. But manager Bob Melvin called on him in a crucial situation Tuesday, with two runners aboard and George Springer hitting in the sixth with the A’s up 5-1. Madson got Springer swinging on a 97 mile-per-hour fastball to end the inning and keep Houston from jumping back into the game after Oakland had scored four to command the lead. Madson retired all four batters he faced with three strikeouts.

Maxwell continues his roll: The A’s catcher went 3-for-4 and is 10-for-18 since being recalled from Triple-A Nashville. He also threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal second in the first.

Casilla slams the door: After Springer’s three-run shot in the ninth, Santiago Casilla entered and allowed singles to Altuve and Carlos Correa to bring the winning run to the plate. But Casilla retired pinch hitter Josh Reddick on a foul pop out and got McCann on the game-ending double play, getting over to cover first to cap the play.

A's rookie Chapman most likely sidelined until next week

A's rookie Chapman most likely sidelined until next week

The A’s aren’t expecting rookie third baseman Matt Chapman to return to the lineup until next week most likely.

Manager Bob Melvin told reporters in Houston that Chapman will rejoin the A’s and work out with the team Friday when they return to begin their next homestand against the Atlanta Braves. Chapman was placed on the 10-day D.L. Thursday with a knee infection that landed him in the hospital for a couple of days.

“He has not done any baseball activity yet,” Melvin said. “We're for sure going to do a couple of days worth of baseball activity. Whether or not he goes out for a (minor league rehab) game or two, we're still deciding on that depending on how he feels Friday.”

Melvin said he’s kept in touch with Chapman via text message, which keeps him in tune with how eager the rookie is to return to the lineup. The highly touted prospect received his first major league call-up June 15 and started four games before being sidelined with cellulitis, a bacterial infection, in his knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital so he could receive an intravenous antibiotic.

“He texts me all the time, after almost every game,” Melvin said. “He tells me he feels better than some of the reports I get sometimes. He's laying in a hospital bed telling me he's ready to play, so I take that with a grain of salt."