Athletics scorch Rangers on hot night in Texas

Athletics scorch Rangers on hot night in Texas

ARLINGTON -- The A's shook off sweltering 100-degree temps and got most of their work done early Sunday evening in a five-run second inning that fueled their 9-3 series-clinching victory over the Rangers.

A three-run fifth only further separated them from the last-place Rangers, who were handed their Major League-leading 64th loss on the same day the A's recorded their Major League-leading 65th win to move a season-high 26 games over .500.

That very statement would have been laughable if predicted at this exact time last year. Alas, the Rangers have succumbed to an inconceivable number of misfortunate injuries, allowing the A's to take center stage in the American League West.

Yet they're not alone. The Angels have kept pace and did so again on Sunday with a win over the Tigers, remaining just two games back.

When not scoreboard-watching, the A's are padding their remarkable run differential, which is a Major League-best plus-170.

On Sunday they didn't even need a homer, after belting four in Saturday's win -- instead stringing together some walks and timely hits to force Texas starter Miles Mikolas out of the game after just 4 2/3 innings.

Lefty Scott Kazmir only went five, but he gave up just two runs to keep his ERA at 2.37 and pick up his 12th win, tying him with nine other pitchers, including Sonny Gray, for the league lead.

"You just never know how we're going to get it done on any given night," said Stephen Vogt, who went 2-for-5. "That's why it's fun to watch and fun to be a part of. Last night we score all five runs on home runs, and tonight we don't hit any.

"The lineup right now is feeling pretty good. Top to bottom, everyone's contributing. We had walks in big situations, and we were able to take advantage of driving baserunners in tonight."

The A's plated 14 runs in the final two games of the series after scoring just one in the opener. Similarly, they managed only two in last week's loss to the Astros before going on to total 22 over two consecutive wins to secure the series victory.

They've won all three series, 2-1, since the All-Star break.

"It's difficult at times to lose the first game of a series and then come back and win the next two," said manager Bob Melvin, "and we've been able to do that."

"We have confidence," said Vogt. "We know what kind of team we have. That speaks to this team. Win or lose, we're the same. I know it gets said all the time, but it's the truth."

Even without outfielder Coco Crisp -- who is expected to also miss the upcoming three-game set in Houston while he visits doctors in the Bay Area to address his persistent neck issue -- the A's found plenty production at the top of the lineup.

Catcher John Jaso held his own in the leadoff spot, getting things going in the second with an RBI single to set up an RBI double from Vogt, who later scored on a two-run double off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.

The hot-hitting Jaso remained in the game to face a lefty in the fifth, rewarding Melvin's decision with a two-run double off Ryan Feierabend, giving him 10 RBIs since the break.

Jaso is batting .371 in 62 at-bats at the top of the order.

"When Coco's out, we certainly need a guy against right-handed pitching, and [Jaso] fills that role every time," said Melvin. "He takes a lot of pitches, he can be aggressive at times, he can drive the ball. He walks."

"I don't really mind it," said Jaso, grinning. "It's not that I like it or don't like it. It's kind of been fitting for me in my career."

Eric Sogard contributed an RBI double in the fifth inning, and the A's would add on in the sixth courtesy of a run-scoring single from Josh Reddick, who is 8-for-21 since coming off the disabled list.

"We've got a pretty deep lineup," said Melvin. "Typically, the three guys in middle of the order knock in a bunch of the runs, but with Reddick back, Jaso swinging the bat well, we can score runs throughout the lineup."

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.