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Cust, Suzuki homers lift A's past Texas

Cust, Suzuki homers lift Athletics

OAKLAND -- Sunday's series finale between the A's and Rangers began under gloomy clouds with a slight chill in the air -- not exactly picture-perfect elements a team wants when trying to snap a two-game skid, as Oakland was attempting to do.

And by day's end, Jerry Blevins was still left with the chills -- not because of the weather, though. After picking up his first Major League win as part of a 6-5 A's victory, Blevins was greeted by Mike Sweeney with a celebratory bucket of ice water.

"He took me out for a pep talk, or that's what I thought it was," a beaming Blevins said. "Then as soon as I saw the bucket, I knew what was coming."

He'll take it, though -- and so will the A's, who entered the game having lost nine of their last 10. On top of the much-needed victory and a big day for Blevins, leave it to Brad Ziegler to add a little more spark to the mix. Shocker, right?

The right-handed pitcher followed Blevins' strong relief performance with two scoreless innings of his own. The outing didn't leave Sweeney beckoning for Ziegler to join Blevins in the ice bath, but it was enough to get the Hall of Fame calling. The side-armer struck out three and didn't allow a run to set the modern Major League record for consecutive scoreless innings to start a career with 27.

"It's real special," said Ziegler, who had spent five years in the Minors before getting the call to Oakland on May 30. "I feel like I've worked real hard to get here. I've never had anything handed to me, so it makes this that much more special."

The always humble Ziegler, who will be sending a few of his items to the Hall, was quick to note the significance of his teammates' performances, particularly that of Blevins -- who he's enjoyed playing with at the Triple-A level and now Oakland.

"He's been tremendous," Ziegler said. "He was lights-out and set the stage for the rest of the game. And then Huston was just dominant. That's the Huston we've come to know and love the past 3 1/2 years."

Street was, in fact, dominant. He was charged with a blown save in each of his last two save opportunities, but he tossed a 1-2-3 ninth inning and let it be no secret how thankful he was for it.

"That was big for me," said Street, who grabbed his 18th save of the season. "The last time in New York, I had two outs and didn't get the job done, so for me to get it done today was great. And for us right now, wins are huge."

No doubt about that. And after leading 6-1 going into the fifth frame, Oakland seemed headed for an easy win. Then again, the A's were facing the Rangers, so anything could happen -- and it nearly did.

After giving up a run in the first, starter Dana Eveland cruised through the next three frames before facing trouble in the fifth. A run-scoring wild pitch and bases-clearing double to Hank Blalock sent Eveland to the showers with two outs, setting up the win for Blevins.

"I got angry and the adrenaline started going," Eveland said of his final inning. "I tried to take walks around the mound to calm down, but it wasn't happening. Before that inning, I felt great."

Luckily for the A's pitcher, so did his offense. After watching the Rangers score 23 runs the past two days, Oakland decided to do a little power hitting of its own in the form of two big homers.

Following a one-run showing by Texas in the top of the first, Jack Cust took the lead right back with a two-run shot to right field off Eric Hurley in the bottom half of the inning. The A's then expanded their lead to five in the second on an RBI double by Jack Hannahan and a three-run dinger off the bat of Kurt Suzuki to make it 6-1.

"It was definitely nice to get an early lead like that," Eveland said. "You gotta score against those guys because they're obviously going to do the same against you."

That they did, but a solid all-around outing by the A's bullpen left Texas one run short.

"It's a tough lineup, so you gotta give a lot of credit to Blevins and Zig," Street said. "We have a lot of confidence in those guys. With Ziegler's record, it's one of those things where you only get one chance to do it, so it's incredible what he's done.

"It's almost like a no-hitter or a perfect game. We don't talk about it, but we do expect him to go out and put up zeros."

So far, so good -- even if it means giving up a pair of cleats for Cooperstown.

"That's honestly never something I thought I'd have to do," Ziegler said. "It's pretty incredible."

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

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