Colon outduels Darvish; A's lead Texas by 5 1/2

Colon outduels Darvish; A's lead Texas by 5 1/2

Colon outduels Darvish; A's lead Texas by 5 1/2

ARLINGTON -- It was fun and exhilarating and all, but the A's wild comeback to win the division last year isn't a formula they'd like to have to repeat. So they're doing their best to keep the drama to a minimum this September, and instead are taking matters into their own hands.

"You'd certainly rather control your own destiny," Jed Lowrie said, "rather than rely on someone else to lose."

The A's did just enough to make the Rangers lose again on Saturday, beating Yu Darvish, 1-0, behind a vintage Bartolo Colon performance to clinch the series and expand their lead in the American League West to 5 1/2 games, with just 14 to play.

Winners of 15 of 19 to improve to a season-high 26 games over .500, the A's head into Sunday's finale at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington boasting the second-best record in the AL at 87-61, needing only six more wins to match their 2012 total.

Their magic number is 10.

"This is the position you fight to put yourself in all year," said Brandon Moss. "Now, we have to finish it."

"It's nice to have the lead, no matter how large or small it is," added Coco Crisp, "but the Rangers have that mentality that they're not going to give in. They're going to keep coming at us, and we can't get lackadaisical. Anything can happen."

The A's know that all too well, having taken home the division title on the final day of the regular season last year, after trailing by five games with nine remaining.

Now, they're sitting quite cozy in the standings and, again, despite last year's success, surprising everyone -- everyone but themselves.

"I've said this a lot this year, but when we play good team baseball and get contributions from everyone, that's when we're at our best," said Lowrie. "That's what we've done over the last couple of weeks. We've had contributions from pretty much everyone."

It was Colon's turn this time. The 40-year-old spun eight scoreless innings en route to his 16th win, allowing seven hits and one walk, while striking out seven for a second consecutive outing. Over his last three games, spanning 24 innings, the veteran righty has surrendered just three total runs.

Colon, who was still spotting a 95-mph fastball in the eighth, needed 108 pitches in what was perhaps his most dominating start since the break, a superb performance that made Darvish's seven-inning gem pale by comparison. It was his seventh straight win at Texas and 20th overall against the Rangers, most by any pitcher.

"Boy, that was like mid-June Bartolo," said manager Bob Melvin. "You could tell he really had great command of his fastball, good velocity, great movement."

"I think that's probably as high velocity as I've seen him," said third baseman Josh Donaldson. "He did awesome. That's a tough lineup he's gotta work through, and he was able to keep guys off base all day. When they did get on base, he was able to wiggle out of it."

Darvish, meanwhile, has now been on the losing end of 1-0 games in back-to-back starts and four times in all this season, though his most recent outing marked a vast improvement against an A's team that compiled a total of 10 runs in his previous two starts against them.

Darvish issued a one-out walk to Donaldson in the first, which proved to be a costly mistake when Moss followed one out later with an RBI double. The A's would manage just three more hits off the right-hander, who is 1-6 in seven career starts vs. Oakland.

"It feels good to beat him," Melvin said. "And we've beaten him a few times this year. This is the best stuff we've seen him have. He was pitching around his fastball a lot today, throwing a lot of breaking balls. With very good pitchers, you have to get to them early before they settle in. That was the case. We got to him in the first, then he did settle in."

"When you start beating these big-time guys, it really gives your offense a feeling that we can beat anybody," Donaldson said. "When we were losing games, we weren't putting it all together -- and right now, we're really putting complete games together: offensively, defensively, pitching. When you're doing that, it doesn't matter who you're playing, you're going to give yourself a chance to win."

Closer Grant Balfour pitched a scoreless ninth for his 38th save of the season, most by an A's pitcher since Keith Foulke tallied 43 in 2003, to shut the door on a Rangers club that has dropped five straight and 11 of 14 overall.

"We're not happy," said Texas' Adrian Beltre. "We had an opportunity against the team we wanted to play, and we're not doing enough to win."

"For the last few years, they've really controlled the division," Donaldson said. "Now, they're looking up at us, trying to catch us, right now."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.