OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Texas Rangers have company in first place in the AL West for the first time since the opening week of the season.
If they can't get out of their late-season funk Wednesday, they will have to make a run at a third straight trip to the World Series as a wild-card team instead of a division winner.
Travis Blackley allowed one run over six innings in a strong bounce-back performance that helped the Oakland Athletics move into a first-place tie with Texas in the AL West thanks to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday night.
"No one said it was going to be easy," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We started out to play 162 games and now — tomorrow — it's 162. And we'll see what happens. We take it no different than we have been approaching it. We just haven't put our game together yet. Tomorrow we have to put it together. If we don't put it together, we still go to the playoffs."
A night after holding a raucous celebration after clinching their first playoff berth since 2006, the A's erased the last piece of what had been a 13-game deficit in the division race on June 30 to take a share of first place for the first time since March 29.
The A's will try to cap the comeback Wednesday in the final game of the regular season when A.J. Griffin (7-1) takes the mound against Ryan Dempster (7-3). Only four teams have won a division or pennant after trailing by at least 13 games.
The loser will go to the postseason as one of the two AL wild-card teams, needing to win a one-game playoff with Baltimore or the New York Yankees on Friday to advance to the division series. Texas had held sole possession of the AL West lead since April 9.
"We've played in these situations the last couple of years," said Matt Harrison, who allowed three runs in six innings. "So we have that on our side. We know what it takes to win that one game. So I think we'll be all right."
Blackley (6-4) gave up three hits and struck out five a week after the Rangers knocked him out with a five-run first inning in the shortest start of his career. He allowed only an RBI double to Josh Hamilton in his longest outing since July 24, just the latest surprising performance in an improbable season for the low-budget A's.
"I just went out there like I had nothing to lose and it worked out," Blackley said.
Derek Norris gave Oakland the lead in the fifth with an RBI single that scored a second run when right fielder Nelson Cruz bobbled the ball in right field for an error. Jonny Gomes added a solo homer in the sixth and the bullpen did the rest in Oakland's fifth straight win.
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