ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Oakland relievers Joey Devine and Grant Balfour pitched two shutout innings, handing normally reliable closer Andrew Bailey a ninth-inning lead.
Bailey got the first two outs in the ninth, and it appeared the Athletics were about to beat the AL West-leading Texas Rangers after losing the first two of the four-game series. Then, Josh Hamilton changed all that.
The reigning AL MVP hit a game-ending, two-run homer to give Texas a 7-6 victory, stretching the Rangers' winning streak to six games and leaving Oakland a season-worst 11 games off the pace in the division. He connected on a 2-0 fastball from Bailey (0-2), a 435-foot blast into the upper deck in right field. It was Hamilton's fourth hit of the game, and his 11th homer of the season.
``You've got to get ahead,' said Bailey, who'd converted eight of his first nine save opportunities. ``You can't fall behind to that guy 2-0. He's one of the best players in the game. You can't put yourself in that position. He's looking fastball, he put a good swing on it and we lost. You've got to tip your cap to him, come out and get him out tomorrow.'
The winning homer came during an emotional stretch for Hamilton, who two nights earlier tossed a ball into the stands toward a Brownwood firefighter who tumbled over the rail and fell about 20 feet to concrete below. The man died less than an hour after the fall.
Flags remained at half-staff and players on both teams again wore black ribbons two nights after Shannon Stone's fatal fall during the opener of the four-game series, when he was at the game with his 6-year-old son. Stone's funeral is Monday.
Elvis Andrus kept the inning alive with an infield single, setting up Hamilton's winner. Andrus had hit what appeared to be a game-ending grounder, but second baseman Jemile Weeks' soft throw was a bit late and wide to first baseman Conor Jackson. When Jackson reached out to try to catch the ball, the speedy Andrus collided with him and both players fell.
The grounder was between Weeks and Jackson. Jackson made a move for the ball, then retreated to first. Bailey also ran over to cover, and Andrus beat Weeks' throw.
``As soon as Conor goes after it, Bailey does the right thing, to go over and cover,' A's manager Bob Melvin said. ``Conor has to decide whether he could get back in time, and they were both there at the same time. It was just one of those in-between plays.'
Hamilton took a big swing and knew it was gone. He walked a couple of steps, put his head down and started the trot that ended with him being mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
Things are going badly for the A's, 5-12 in their last 17 games after a season-best six-game winning streak.
They led or were tied the entire game until Hamilton's heroics.
``We had it set up for our bullpen, seven, eight, nine,' Melvin said. ``It just didn't work out.'
Coco Crisp and Josh Willingham homered for Oakland (39-52), which fell a season-worst 13-games under .500.
Crisp's fourth homer, a solo shot in the seventh off reliever Tommy Hunter, had given the A's a 6-5 lead.
Both starting pitchers - Oakland's Brandon McCarthy and Rangers right-hander Colby Lewis - allowed five runs over six innings.
Oakland went ahead with a four-run second, the final run coming home when Hideki Matsui reached on catcher's interference with the bases loaded. Matsui hit what appeared to be an inning-ending infield popup, but home plate umpire Eric Cooper immediately signaled the play dead and catcher Yorvit Torrealba tapped his chest protector as if to acknowledge his mistake.
Willingham led off the second with his 11th homer before Cliff Pennington and Weeks had consecutive RBI singles.
Now the A's find themselves trying to avoid a four-game sweep in Sunday's series finale.
``It puts that much more importance on winning tomorrow,' Melvin said. ``You don't want to get swept four games going into the (All-Star) break. You don't want to sit on that.'
Notes: Oakland 3B Scott Sizemore made a nifty grab in the eighth, reaching high over his head and leaning over the wall to catch a foul ball. ... The A's are 16-31 on the road. ... Four of Willingham's 11 homers have come against Texas.
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