ARLINGTON, Texas - The Oakland Athletics may be able to do better than just get into the playoffs as a wild card.
They might sneak away with a division title if they keep playing like this against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.
Oakland led for good only three batters into the game and chased Texas starter Martin Perez before the end of the first inning in a 9-3 victory Wednesday night to pull within three games with seven to play, four against the Rangers.
"To come out there and get these guys was the biggest series of the road trip. These are the guys we are trying to catch," Josh Reddick said. "A lot of people want to say we can get the wild card. We're trying to still win this division. ... It's definitely possible."
The Athletics (88-67) have taken two of the first three games in the series that ends with a day game Thursday. That will also wrap up a stretch of six series in six cities before ending the regular season with six games at home.
"We lost a tough one the first night (in Texas). For me, it was even more important to come back and win the next day and follow it up with a good performance today," manager Bob Melvin said. "Certainly it would be nice to win tomorrow, but at this point, these two games I think were big for us."
The Los Angeles Angels (86-69) remained within two games of Oakland for the AL's second wild card spot by winning their fifth game in a row later Wednesday night, 4-3 over Seattle.
Oakland, which had played five consecutive one-run games, led 5-0 only eight batters into the game. The A's chased Perez (1-3) before the rookie left-hander got all the way through the batting order one time.
Yoenis Cespedes had one of Oakland's two triples in the first inning.
After Cespedes' one-out triple, the A's had three consecutive singles. The last was Josh Donaldson's grounder up the middle that then rolled under the glove of centre fielder Josh Hamilton for a two-base error, making it 4-0. Derek Norris tripled to left-centre on a liner Hamilton appeared to misplay and let get over his head.
While not the best timing for the Rangers (91-64) to play a game like this, Hamilton said they're not panicking.
"It is what it is," Hamilton said. "I'm not going to give in or put my head down or start crying or collapse all over myself, and the team's not going to do that either. Come back tomorrow."
The magic number remained at five for the two-time defending American League champion Rangers, who host the Angels for three games this weekend.
Matt Harrison (17-10), the All-Star left-hander, starts for Texas in the series finale against Oakland, when he will try to become the Rangers' first 18-game winner since Kenny Rogers in 2004. He faces lefty Travis Blackley (5-3).
"If we come back tomorrow and win the ballgame, they leave out of here the same way they came in," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We feel like we're going to win tomorrow. We just didn't get it done tonight."
Stephen Drew had four of Oakland's 16 hits, including a double leading off the game before scoring on Cespedes' triple into the right-centre gap.
The only Oakland starter without a hit was No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington. Even Reddick ended a career-long 0-for-30 slump with singles in the seventh and ninth innings.
Rookie righty Jarrod Parker (12-8) won his third consecutive decision over four starts. He struck out eight in six innings, and his 109 pitches were his most since 111 on June 4, when he threw eight scoreless innings and allowed only one hit against the Rangers in Oakland.
The Athletics set an AL record for striking out the most in a season with their 11 against six Texas pitchers. They have 1,333, nine more than Tampa Bay had in 2007, and they still have seven games left.
"Despite that number, we're having a great year and winning some ballgames," Reddick said. "Just kind of throw that stat out the window as long as scoring runs."
A night after Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start because of neck stiffness, and Scott Feldman and five other relievers were needed in a 10-inning loss, the Rangers were already back in their bullpen before the end of the first inning.
Wilmer Font, the third Texas pitcher, walked the only two batters he faced to start the third before Drew's two-run single made it 7-3. Moss doubled and scored on a single by Norris an inning later.
Parker walked leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler before Elvis Andrus doubled off the left-centre field wall. Michael Young and David Murphy had consecutive singles to start the second, scoring on a fielder's choice grounder by Mitch Moreland and a sacrifice fly by Andrus that made it 5-3.
Chris Carter's strikeout in the second inning was the third of the game for the A's, and pushed them past the 2007 Rays. Oakland already is well past its previous franchise mark of 1,226 strikeouts in 2008.
"At this point, it just kind of goes with the territory," Melvin said. "At least we're not hitting into double plays."
NOTES: Oakland is 51-25 since the start of July, the best record in the majors over that span. ... The A's are 8-7 against Texas this season. ... The start by Perez was the shortest for a Ranger since July 2, 2011, when Derek Holland also got only two outs facing eight batters against Florida. ... Perez got his first major league victory on June 30, against the A's at Rangers Ballpark. ... Yoshinori Tateyama struck out four in 2 1-3 innings, and was the only Rangers pitcher who didn't allow a base runner.