Gonzalez, A's team to knock off Texas

Gonzalez, A's team to knock off Texas

OAKLAND -- Sitting in the A's clubhouse before Saturday's matinee against the Rangers, Gio Gonzalez watched a replay of Dallas Braden's perfect game with his pregame meal. While Gonzalez wasn't perfect, he tossed seven innings of shutout ball to lead the A's to a 6-2 victory over the Rangers.

When asked what he thought about his performance, Gonzalez instantly deflected all praise to his defense and the A's lineup, who used small ball throughout the afternoon to manufacture runs.

"We had great defense, great offense all around," Gonzalez said. "We wanted to win the game really bad. We did all-in-all our job and made a great jump today swinging the bat and making great plays. The credit's all to the offense and the defense."

For Gonzalez, Saturday's game plan was simple: pound the zone. But given Texas' robust lineup, said task could often lead to hits and runs. Gonzalez never lost a grasp on the game, though, limiting Texas to four hits and three walks on the afternoon.

"[A's catcher Kurt] Suzuki was constantly telling me, 'Let's go, challenge these guys. Go out there and keep throwing strikes, let them swing the bat,'" Gonzalez said. "Texas is a good-hitting team and I just tried to make the adjustment and it worked. Suzuki did a great job."

Among his seven sharp innings, Gonzalez's only murky moment occurred in the fourth, when he surrendered a pair of walks after retiring Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero to start the frame. After Suzuki and pitching coach Curt Young came out to the mound to calm Gonzalez down, he induced groundout from David Murphy to end the inning.

With the win, Gonzalez (10-7) moved his record to 9-1 in games where the A's give him at least three runs of support. He is now 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA over his last nine starts.

"He was just throwing strikes," Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz said. "He didn't give us many good pitches to hit, especially with men in scoring position. He threw his breaking ball and we have to be more patient in those situations. He threw well."

From the fifth inning on, Gonzalez faced one batter over the minimum to finish out his afternoon, picking up a pair of inning-ending double plays along the way.

The first came via Kevin Kouzmanoff, who fielded a Michael Young ground ball, stepped on third for a forceout and threw a strike across the diamond to nab Young. The second was a 6-4-3 double play on ground ball by Cruz.

"I think the defense has been fantastic all season, it really has," A's manager Bob Geren said. "We got to be the best defensive team in the league, I think. We play hard and we play right."

Daric Barton set the defensive tone for Oakland early, tracking down an Elvis Andrus fly ball in foul territory near the bullpen mound. Rajai Davis also got into the act, making a sliding catch in left field to record Gonzalez's final out in the seventh.

Offensively, it was all about the sacrifices on Saturday. Three of the A's six runs came via a sac fly, one of them set up by a Cliff Pennington sacrifice bunt.

"That's the style that we have to play," Geren said. "We have to execute. ... For the most part we've been very pleased with that, but today was an exceptional outing in the situational department."

In the middle of it all was Coco Crisp, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, two runs scored, a home run and three RBIs. Crisp delivered sac flies in the fourth and sixth innings, while blasting a solo shot to center field in the second off Texas starter Rich Harden.

"When I hit it I was thinking triple," Crisp said of his home run. "I just got the bonus bag when it went over. Out the box, I'm running -- I don't [hit a lot] of home runs anyway. I don't have that hit-it-40-rows-deep kind of power, I was able sneak one over the fence. It feels good, though."

Crisp said he planned on taking the first pitch from Harden, but that the fastball was simply too good to pass up. Crisp almost kept the shutout intact in the eighth inning, when he nearly robbed Taylor Teagarden of a home run, but he couldn't keep it from going out to make the score 6-1.

"It hit off my glove," Crisp said. "My thumb came out and I think if my thumb doesn't come out I might be able to bring it back. Without your thumb, you really don't have any power on the other side of the glove."

Harden, meanwhile, looked like a shell of the pitcher he was on May 3, when he struck out nine A's over seven scoreless innings. Harden needed 41 pitches to navigate through the first inning on Saturday, but not before walking three batters and ceding a 2-0 lead to Oakland. He left after 2 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on two hits, five walks and a hit batsman.

"You always get a lot of guys chasing at fastballs up and chasing his changeup down," Geren said. "If you do that, [Harden] can get on a roll and be virtually unhittable. But our guys did a super job on laying off both of those pitches and getting it to a point where they didn't get through three innings. That's probably what impressed me most."

Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.