OAKLAND (AP) — Sure, it’s the Texas Rangers in town. The very team the Oakland Athletics rallied to beat in Game No. 162 last October for a stunning sweep to steal away the AL West crown from the two-time reigning AL champions.
The opponent hardly mattered Monday night. Oakland needed to bounce back and win.
Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss hit consecutive home runs in the third inning, A.J. Griffin matched his season high with eight strikeouts and the A’s beat the Rangers 5-1 to start an important stretch on the heels of a really rough one.
This marks Texas’ first trip to Oakland since losing those final three games of the 2012 regular season to give away the division title to the surprising A’s, whose latest victory ran their home winning streak in the rivalry to five.
“It was big. It was welcomed,” said manager Bob Melvin, sporting a bright yellow Golden State Warriors T-shirt under his uniform. “It just felt like we were back in sync.”
Back home, Oakland looked refreshed after losing six of seven on a 3-7 road trip through New York, Cleveland and Seattle. The A’s avoided dropping a season-low two games below .500 for the first time since Game 2 on April 2.
Griffin (4-3) went seven innings and didn’t walk a batter for the first time this season, earning his second victory in six outings since he won back-to-back appearances to start the year.
Mitch Moreland homered to give the Rangers the lead in the second, then Eric Sogard and John Jaso hit RBI singles for the A’s in the bottom half.
Griffin faced either the minimum or one more batter in each of his final five innings, helped by a pair of double plays. He improved to 3-0 in four starts against division opponents.
“It’s the best start command-wise I’ve had in the pros, in the major leagues,” he said.
The right-hander got a scare when he ducked out of the way of Adrian Beltre’s sharp single up the middle leading off the seventh, and the pitcher patted his hand on his pounding heart once back on his feet.
“He was keeping the fastball down and making good pitches,” Texas’ Elvis Andrus said. “There was nothing more we could do. His breaking ball is really slow and it’s not that easy to adjust to so many mph lower than his fastball.”
Next, Sean Doolittle came in and struck out the side in order on 12 pitches in the eighth.
Cespedes hit an 0-1 pitch just over the center-field wall above leaping Leonys Martin in the third. But the Cuban slugger came out of the game in the top of the fifth with a stomach bug.
“It came on during the game,” Melvin said. “He threw up a couple times in the bathroom. They’re calling it a stomach ailment, they don’t think it’s a stomach virus. They think he should be in good shape to play tomorrow.”
The Rangers (24-14) arrived in the Bay Area having won seven of nine and began the day with the best record in the majors, but again ran into their division nemesis.
Oakland became the first team in major league history to win a division or pennant after trailing by five games with fewer than 10 to play, beating the Rangers in the regular-season finale. Oakland trailed by 13 games on June 30.
“We’re not in here for any revenge,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said before the game. “They beat us, we understand that, but there’s nothing we can do about that. ... I’m not coming up in here thinking about what happened in the past. Learn from that, but that certainly isn’t fueling us. What’s fueling us is we’re healthy and we’re playing good baseball, that’s it.”
The Rangers had their four-game winning streak snapped. They haven’t won five in a row since June 26-30 last year.
Texas righty Justin Grimm (2-3) lost his third straight after receiving one extra day of rest between outings. He gave way to Joseph Ortiz after plunking Daric Barton to begin the sixth. Ortiz immediately allowed Derek Norris’ double.
Moss struck out on four pitches to start the second after fanning four times on 14 total pitches in a 6-1 loss at Seattle. Then, he connected for his sixth home run with a drive to nearly the same spot as Cespedes moments before. It marked the second time this season the A’s hit back-to-back homers, also done by Jed Lowrie and Chris Young on April 3 against Seattle.
Moss’ homer was the 7,000th in Oakland history. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson hit the first on April 10, 1968.
NOTES: Rangers RHP Colby Lewis, a former A’s prospect who had surgery last July to repair a torn flexor tendon, was examined by team doctor Keith Meister in Texas and diagnosed with mild tendinitis in his triceps. He is scheduled to throw again this weekend in Arlington and pitch his next rehab outing for Double-A Frisco as soon as Monday. ... Oakland Gold Glove RF Josh Reddick is yet to swing a bat to test his injured right wrist, but hopes to do so soon. There is no tear, so he is encouraged he can avoid surgery, which he had on the left wrist two years ago. ... A’s CF Coco Crisp (strained left hamstring) ran, hit and shagged flies. If all goes well, he will be activated from the disabled list Wednesday. Fellow OF Chris Young (strained left quadriceps) went 1 for 5 with a home run in an extended spring training game, but didn’t feel that good. He is set to play again Tuesday. ... Announced attendance was just 11,030, a far cry from those lively sellouts to end last season.