It didn't hurt to have that Trevor Cahill kid on the mound, either.
Before Sunday's rubber match against the Rangers, Michael Wuertz pulled Cahill aside and told him to throw eight strong innings. The veteran reliever proved to be prophetic, as Cahill tossed eight sharp innings and Wuertz escaped a ninth-inning jam to seal the win.
Cahill entered the game with an 18-inning scoreless streak and on the heels of his first career shutout.
"Why not eight more?," Wuertz said. "Give us relievers a little bit of work down there, too. It was great to see and what more can you say? What is it 12 wins now he's got? That's spectacular."
If it weren't for a couple of fielding blunders by the A's, who knows if Cahill (12-4) could have tossed another shutout? The way he was dealing Sunday, it wouldn't be out of the question.
While Cahill's curveball wasn't snapping as he would have hoped, he was able to pound the zone and let his defense do the work. Cahill was stung by two errors in the sixth inning that resulted in a pair of unearned runs for Texas, but that's all he would surrender.
"He's one of those frustrating guys ... we feel like we should beat him every time," Texas outfielder David Murphy said. "He just works magic with that sinker. He keeps it down and seems to always get us."
The 22-year-old righty used 110 pitches to finish his third consecutive start of at least eight innings, allowing six hits and striking out three. The two-run sixth snapped his career-high 23-inning scoreless streak.
"If I'm not going to strike guys out, I've got to go deep into games," Cahill said. "I think that's kind of what I didn't do last year, get ahead of a lot of guys. This year I'm able to get ahead of them and go deeper into games and save the bullpen."
The A's, meanwhile, were stifled by Texas starter Colby Lewis, but found things much easier against the Rangers bullpen.
Oakland's lone run off Lewis came in the sixth inning, when Rajai Davis hit a sacrifice fly to score Kevin Kouzmanoff, who led off the frame with a double to left field. Other than that, Lewis proved to be stingy, as he struck out seven batters over six innings, allowing three hits and three walks.
"Every time I've pitched against the Rangers I've gone against Colby Lewis," Cahill said. "He's pitched some gems and fortunately I was able to be on the good side of some late run scoring."
Lefty Darren Oliver relieved Lewis in the seventh and promptly gave up a leadoff single to Cliff Pennington. He then surrendered a double to Coco Crisp down the left-field line, as Pennington scored to knot the game at 2. Crisp kept up his hot weekend, as he also keyed Saturday's 6-2 win over the Rangers with several big plays.
"He can do everything," A's manager Bob Geren said. "From his speed to defense to a big base hit to the occasional homer. You don't know exactly how he can impact the game daily, but he can do it a lot of different ways."
Crisp also turned in one of the afternoon's finest defensive plays in the fourth inning, when he made a leaping grab with his back against the wall to rob Bengie Molina of extra bases and keep the Rangers off the board.
"I'm just thankful that I'm able to contribute in some ways," said Crisp, who missed 70 of Oakland's initial 72 games with injuries. "It's tough playing these guys, they have a phenomenal lineup. We're just jumping on the backs of our pitchers and they're doing a good job of keeping us in the game."
Kurt Suzuki delivered the game-winner later in the seventh, when he hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Crisp.
That set the stage for the ninth inning, when Wuertz picked up his fourth save in four tries since closer Andrew Bailey went on the disabled list with a rib muscle strain. It didn't go without some drama, though.
Wuertz issued a pair of walks, one to Molina and one to Cristian Guzman, but got pinch-hitter Vladimir Guerrero to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
"Vladimir's not a guy you want to be facing with runners on first and second and one out," Wuertz said. "I made a pretty good pitch and luckily we got a double play."
A's first baseman Daric Barton left the game in the fifth inning after experiencing muscle spasms in his left shoulder, but said he felt OK after the game. Geren used Landon Powell as a pinch-runner and kept him in the game at first base, saying Adam Rosales was unavailable due to an injured ankle.
With the win, Oakland pulled itself to 7 1/2 games back of the Rangers for first place in the American League West.
"Oakland is not going any place," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But I'm not worried about the A's. We need to take care of our own business. They're not going away because they've got good pitching and they've got a bunch of scrappy guys who play the game hard. They execute. If their pitching keeps them in the game, they're tough."
Alex Espinoza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less