The A's may have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they're playing as if they're in the middle of a pennant race. They went 6-2 on their road trip, splitting a pair with the White Sox, taking two of three from the Twins and then sweeping three games from the Rangers. They outscored the Rangers, 19-1.
"It's great," said A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, who slugged a three-run homer in the third inning. "We're having fun, and that's the main thing. And it's showing. On the field we're loose, relaxed, having fun, going out there and just playing the game of baseball.
"We're pretty much out of it, but to be coming to the park every day playing hard and going out and winning as many games as we can to kind of build on next year, it's a good feeling to win games."
In the opener of a four-game series, A's rookie pitcher Clayton Mortensen gave up just two runs over five innings to earn his second Major League win.
Third baseman Adam Kennedy hit a pair of leadoff doubles, sparking rallies in the first and third. Andrew Bailey picked up his 25th save, striking out three in the ninth and adding to his A's rookie record.
Mortensen, who came to the Oakland from St. Louis on July 24 in the Matt Holliday trade, won back-to-back starts and improved to 2-2. He struck out four, walked three and gave up four hits.
"I felt good," Mortensen said. "Definitely a little upset I didn't do a lot better than that. I felt good out on the mound, though, trying to attack hitters. I kept falling behind, but I kept us in the game and that's all that matters."
Mortensen pitched out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the second after he walked two batters and gave up a single to Lou Marson. He struck out Trevor Crowe swinging to end the inning. In the third with two outs and Shin-Soo Choo on first, Mortensen fanned Jhonny Peralta swinging on an offspeed pitch.
Mortensen didn't give up a run until the fifth when the Indians scored twice. Marson led off with a single and Crowe tripled him home. Then Crowe scored on Michael Brantley's ground out, cutting the A's lead to 5-2.
Mortensen has made tremendous progress since his debut as a starter for the A's on Aug. 8, after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento. Kansas City hammered him for eight hits and eight runs in four innings. The A's immediately sent him down, but they recalled him Sept. 4.
In his second start, Mortensen gave up four runs and six hits in seven innings against Seattle. Then on Sept. 11, in his first big league win, he allowed just one run and six hits over six innings against the Twins.
"I feel a lot more confident, a lot better out on the mound than I did that very first start," Mortensen said. "Not so much being intimidated by the other guys that I'm facing. I just definitely feel more comfortable on the mound, more confident in my stuff."
The A's hitters wasted no time giving Mortensen a cushion. Kennedy led off the game with a double, one-hopping his shot off the right-field wall. He moved to third on Rajai Davis' ground out and scored on Ryan Sweeney's dribbler to first.
In the third, it was deja vu all over again. Kennedy led off the inning with another double to right off Indians starter Justin Masterson. After Davis struck out, Sweeney walked, setting the stage for Suzuki.
Suzuki fell behind 0-2. No problem. He unloaded a three-run homer to left-center, just right of the 388-foot mark. The blast was Suzuki's 13th of the season, six more than he had all last year.
"I kind of hung a sinker to Suzuki that he hit out," Masterson said. "On 0-2, he got one that stands out in the middle of the plate and says, 'Hit me over the fence'. So he did what he was supposed to do."
After going 6-2 against a trio of teams with playoff hopes, the A's did what they're supposed to do against the struggling Indians. A's manager Bob Geren said beating Cleveland felt just as good as any of the other recent wins.
"We just want to win," Geren said. "We're not going to make the playoffs, obviously, but we have our own goals and desires each day. I like what we're doing. It's a lot of fun."