ARLINGTON -- Kurt Suzuki admitted that his batterymate felt slightly off during his pregame bullpen session on Wednesday. So the A's catcher, always the natural leader, lent the young Trevor Cahill -- who foreshadowed a long night ahead -- some rather simple advice. "Don't think about it," Suzuki told Cahill. "Just throw the ball."
He did. 113 times. And, following an eight-inning scoreless performance against a deep lineup otherwise known as the Texas Rangers, Cahill found himself on the winning end of a 3-1 game at the Ballpark in Arlington while improving to 10-4 on the season. Long night? Quite the contrary. "Two hits," began Suzuki, shaking his head. "No runs. Against the Rangers. In Texas. With the wind blowing out. That's impressive." Pretty much. And it left the A's catcher calling the affair "one of the best games [Cahill's] thrown." "He was moving the ball around, in and out and up and down, and throwing his breaking ball for strikes," Suzuki added. It marked the 17th consecutive start in which Cahill, one of two Oakland All-Stars this year, has logged at least five innings and surrendered six hits or less. Furthermore, he improved to 5-1 with a 1.83 ERA over seven career starts against Texas, including a 0.87 mark over three starting assignments in Arlington. "It's just a coincidence, I guess," the soft-spoken Cahill offered. "Tonight I just tried to keep the ball down, and I got lucky." Luck, though, doesn't usually sum up a 2.93 ERA, which is what the A's righty now owns following Wednesday's gem, which fell one frame short of a complete game after manager Bob Geren deemed his hurler worn out. Cahill's eight innings matched a career high, and he expressed understanding in the decision to end his night. "The thing is," he said, "we have so many guys down in the bullpen." "He was done," Geren said. "He was pretty tired after the seventh inning. It's outstanding what he did when you think about pitching in this environment, this weather, this team. He was about as good as you can get. "He had great movement on his pitches, good command of the zone and he was aggressive getting early outs. That helped him go deep in the game." Cahill's late-inning exit was met with the entrance of Michael Wuertz, whom Geren has been relying on for closer duties in Andrew Bailey's (back spasms) absence. The A's righty, who on Tuesday surrendered a walk-off homer to Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the 10th inning for a loss, quickly had to deal with a runner on second due to a throwing error by shortstop Cliff Pennington to lead off the ninth on Wednesday. Wuertz proceeded to strike out Michael Young before allowing an unearned run on a single by Vladimir Guerrero, at which point Craig Breslow was called upon to record the final two outs -- strikeouts of Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. "The win was huge," Suzuki said. "The last couple series, we've been losing the first game and coming back. Winning the middle game is always big. Every game's big, but you definitely don't want to lose the series. You want to give yourself a chance to win every series. It was just a great team win today." It was one that may not have been possible had it not been for Suzuki's bat, which gave Cahill just enough run support in the form of a sixth-inning homer off Texas starter Colby Lewis, along with a run-scoring single in the eighth frame against Darren Oliver. Suzuki eventually scored Oakland's third run courtesy of an error by Cruz, who bobbled Jack Cust's single in right field, allowing the A's catcher to score from second. Lewis gave the Rangers seven solid innings of work, his lone mistake coming on Suzuki's 12th long ball of the season on a 2-2 pitch. He gave up just four other hits while walking two and fanning eight. "Colby gave us a good start," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "He got the ball in on Suzuki. That was the only bad pitch he made all day. Trevor Cahill made none. We just couldn't square him up. He was good. Better than we were tonight." "It was a slider," Suzuki said. "It was up, and a lot of times I hit homers with two strikes because I'm not thinking, and I just go up there and react, choke up on the bat, react and see the ball longer. I just went up there with that two-strike approach, saw the ball and reacted." And when asked if the mighty Texas wind may have helped him out, Suzuki flashed a wide grin. "Probably," he said. "I ain't gonna lie. I hit it good, but I'm not Josh Hamilton or Nelson Cruz-type power. I use everything I can. But hey, it's a homer. A homer's a homer." And usually a win's just a win, but everyone in the A's clubhouse is likely to attest to the fact it's all the more sweeter against a division foe like the first-place Rangers, who watched Oakland take sole possession of second place on Wednesday night for the first time since June 4. The A's still stand 7 1/2 back of the Rangers, but they've won 11 of their last 14 and feel quite confident in their push at the playoffs -- even without veteran Ben Sheets, officially lost on Wednesday due to a torn flexor tendon in his already surgically repaired right elbow. Sheets was expected to be this year's resident staff ace, the one to carry a youthful load of fellow hurlers. He gave all he had and more, but his time in that role gas ended, paving the way for ... Cahill? "He's really kind of turned into our ace," Geren said. "I know everybody in this room knows that, when Trevor goes out there, we feel really good about our chances. That's kind of the mental side of being an ace, knowing that if you have a streak he'll extend it and if you have a slide he'll end it. That's kind of what that term, or that role, means to me."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.