Kottaras plays hero for A's in extra-inning win

September 26, 2012, 5:46 am
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ARLINGTON -- It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Those are words the 2012 Oakland A's can live by on an individual player level and a team-wide level. On Tuesday night in Texas, the A's fell behind early but finished with a big home run and save in the 10th inning to defeat the Rangers 3-2.
INSTANT REPLAY: A's 3, Rangers 2 (10)

With the win, their magic number to clinch a spot in the American League Wild Card game is seven, and they are again four games behind the Rangers in the A.L. West. RELATED: MLB standings
The A's final run scored in the 10th inning when George Kottaras clubbed a ball 394 feet into the second deck off Rangers reliever Mark Lowe. Four of his nine home runs this season have given his club the lead. He hit three while with Milwaukee and is up to six with the A's. This one was particularly special for him. "Way up there," Kottaras said of where his 10th inning homer ranks in his career. "To do that, to help the team in that manner, kind of win the ball game was huge for me today."Kottaras' first career home run was off Lowe. Something keen A's manager Bob Melvin wasn't going to let him forget. Especially in a moment this big. "He definitely mentioned it when I was walking up to the on-deck circle and kind of joking about it a little bit," Kottaras said. "It was just one of those things where I'm trying to have a good at bat and hit the ball hard somewhere and kind of off it went so"The A's started the year power starved; now they lead all of Major League Baseball with 99 home runs in the second half. It's not how you start, it's how you finish.The A's bullpen had been overworked in recent days and the biggest concern was finding a way to get the relief corps some rest. Tommy Milone was burdened with the pressure of going deep into the game to save the recently suffering bullpen that has allowed 26 runs in the last eight games. At first that looked like it might be a bit of a problem. Milone allowed the first three batters of the game to reach on singles. The third single belonged to Josh Hamilton, and the ball he hit got by right fielder Brandon Moss, who let it roll all the way to the wall, scoring two runs. Milone responded by stranding Hamilton on third with no outs and ended up retiring the next 11 batters he faced. "I think any good starting pitcher typically, you've got a chance to get him early before he gets into a rhythm," Melvin said. "After that he was fantastic." Milone ended up with 110 pitches through six innings of work. He only allowed three hits after the first inning rally and didn't allow an earned run or a walk. He struck out three batters. "It is easy to lay back and let that affect you but you just have got to keep making pitches and get out of the inning," Milone said. "We have a tremendous amount of respect for our hitters so it's not one of those things where we felt we were in a hole." Moss started with that critical two-run error, and finished with a game-saving catch with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Elvis Andrus hit a ball deep to right field that looked like trouble, but Moss went into a full sprint and somehow managed to make an over-the-shoulder catch to save three runs. "I didn't realize that it had gone that far; I did feel like I was running forever," Moss said. "But not as far as Yoenis Cespedes had to run after that ground ball I missed.""I was just praying that it wouldn't cost us," Moss added. "It seems every error I make lately two or three runs score and we end up losing by one." The A's were expecting to face one of the Rangers' best pitchers in Yu Darvish. They ended up facing Scott Feldman, who they have scored 12 runs on this season. That's a pretty huge turn of events for a team clinging to life in the division. The A's were able to touch up Feldman for two runs on four hits and knock him out of the game after four innings. The A's may have fell behind early but they battled back quick. Daric Barton, who was in the lineup mostly for defensive purposes, stroked an RBI double on the first pitch he saw to cut the lead in half. In the past Barton has been a patient hitter to a fault."I got a pitch up in the zone early in the count and one of the things I have worked on was just being more aggressive with guys in scoring position and it paid off," Barton said. "It feels good to play, period." "He has good at-bats against lefties, righties, good defender," Melvin said. "That was a nice late addition for us because we are getting a lot of use out of him."Chris Carter tied the game at two in the fourth inning with his 16th home run of the season. That was all Rangers manager Ron Washington wanted to see out of Feldman. He was removed from the game after just four innings with 75 pitches. After allowing 26 runs in their last nine games, the A's relievers were money on Tuesday. They combined for four scoreless innings against a tough Rangers lineup. Sean Doolittle pitched one and one-third innings and Evan Scribner pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get his first career win. Closer Grant Balfour locked down the victory with his 21st save of the season. He pitched a three up, three down 10th inning and has been remarkably consistent since re-taking the closer's role. He hasn't blown a save in 16 chances since August 11. "He's coming in and throwing strikes and mixing his pitches up too," Kottaras said. "He's not just a fastball thrower, he's a pitcher. To be able to do that is huge for us." The A's have lost six of their last nine games. Each win gets them a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006. They have eight games left and are two games ahead of the Angels for the second Wild Card spot, and half a game behind the Orioles for the first spot. They control their own destiny at this point."I think the farther you go into the season each and every win has a bit more magnitude to it," Melvin said. "It was a huge win the last day in New York, a huge win the last day in Detroit, this team has responded like this many, many times this year, so it doesn't surprise me." Again, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. NOTES:-- Coco Crisp entered the game as a pinch runner and stole a base. He participated in baseball activities and hit in the cage on Tuesday before the game. It is a sign he might finally be close to a return. -- The A's struck out 15 times on the evening, raising their running franchise record total to 1,322 and bringing them closer to the all-time American League record of 1,324 recorded by the Rays in 2007.
-- Tuesday was the second game in Rangers franchise history where they scored one or more runs but recorded 0 RBI. The last time was 1962, when they were the Washington Senators, also a 3-2 loss.

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