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10/03/2012 2:10 AM EDT
A's forge 1st-place tie with 3-1 win over Rangers
OAKLAND 3, TEXAS 1

By JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- After erasing what once appeared to be an
insurmountable deficit, it has come down to this for the Oakland
Athletics - one game against the Texas Rangers to decide the AL
West title.



Travis Blackley allowed one run over six innings in a strong
bounce-back performance that helped the A's move into a
first-place tie with Texas by beating the Rangers 3-1 Tuesday
night.



"As long as we believe inside this clubhouse and we know we can
get it down, we're going to do it. I honestly believe we're
going to win tomorrow," closer Grant Balfour said. "Nothing is
guaranteed, but it's about as good as. I believe we can go out
and get it done."



And who would doubt these rag-tag A's after the remarkable run
they have had to get to this point?



A night after holding a raucous celebration after clinching
their first playoff berth since 2006, the A's erased the last
piece of what had been a 13-game deficit in the division race on
June 30 to take a share of first place for the first time since
March 29.



Blackley (6-4) gave up three hits and struck out five a week
after the Rangers knocked him out with a five-run first inning
in the shortest start of his career. He allowed only an RBI
double to Josh Hamilton in his longest outing since July 24,
just the latest surprising performance in an improbable season
for the low-budget A's.



"I just went out there like I had nothing to lose and it worked
out," Blackley said.



Derek Norris gave Oakland the lead in the fifth with an RBI
single that scored a second run when right fielder Nelson Cruz
bobbled the ball in right field for an error. Jonny Gomes added
a solo homer in the sixth and the bullpen did the rest in
Oakland's fifth straight win.



Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook each pitched a scoreless inning and
Balfour worked a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances.
Balfour has three saves and a win in the last four days.



The A's will try to cap the comeback Wednesday in game No. 162
when A.J. Griffin (7-1) takes the mound against Ryan Dempster
(7-3). Only four teams have won a division or pennant after
trailing by at least 13 games.



"No one said it was going to be easy," Texas manager Ron
Washington said. "We started out to play 162 games and now -
tomorrow - it's 162. And we'll see what happens. We take it no
different than we have been approaching it. We just haven't put
our game together yet. Tomorrow we have to put it together. If
we don't put it together, we still go to the playoffs."



The loser will go the postseason as one of the two AL wild-card
teams, needing to win a one-game playoff with Baltimore or the
New York Yankees on Friday to advance to the division series.



"This isn't Game 7 of the World Series. It's not win or go
home," Gomes said. "We're going to play loose. We're going to
have fun and just continue to pass the torch. Hopefully tomorrow
we get our pitching, defense and homers. That's been it for us."



The Rangers, who had held sole possession of the AL West lead
since April 9, never expected to be in that position. But now
they need one more victory to win their third straight division
title.



They had been counting on Matt Harrison (18-11) to wrap up the
title but now need to survive one more storm Wednesday to do it.



Harrison had been cruising along, retiring 10 straight batters
before running into trouble in the fifth. Josh Donaldson led off
with a single and advanced to third on Brandon Moss' double.
Norris then lined a single to right field that scored Donaldson
with the tying run. Third base coach Mike Gallego initially held
up Moss, but Cruz bobbled the ball for an error that allowed
Moss to score.



Oakland tacked on an insurance run when Gomes hit his 18th homer
with two outs in the sixth to make it 3-1, delighting the crowd
of 30,660.



"He got two pitches up where he probably didn't want them,"
Washington said. "The one to Donaldson and the other to Moss.
They were able to put something together in that inning and put
some runs on the board. He fell behind on Gomes and he had to
come in with a fastball strike and Gomes didn't miss it. There's
the score right there. We put just one run on the board
tonight."



NOTES: The A's estimated a walk-up crowd of 12,000. ... The
gametime temperature of 87 degrees was the warmest of the year
in Oakland. ... The other teams to come back from at least 13
games down were the 1914 Boston Braves, the 1951 New York
Giants, the `78 Yankees and the `95 Seattle Mariners. ...
Oakland reliever Pat Neshek will miss the final two games for
the birth of his first child. ... Texas RHP Mike Adams rejoined
the team after receiving a cortisone injection in his strained
neck Monday. It is unknown when he will be able to pitch again.

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