ARLINGTON, Texas The glass-is-half-full view is that the A's come home for their final six games of the regular season with a two-game lead in the American League wild-card race.
But their 9-7 loss to the Texas Rangers on Thursday put a dent in their division title hopes, as left-hander Travis Blackley was shelled for five runs in the first inning, and the A's couldn't complete a furious comeback, settling for a split of a four-game series at Rangers Ballpark.
The A's trail the Rangers by four games, so they must gain at least one game on the Rangers before Texas arrives in Oakland on Monday for a season-ending three-game series if they're to have any shot at the A.L. West crown.
The A's host the Seattle Mariners for three games beginning tonight while Texas welcomes the Los Angeles Angels, one of the teams along with Tampa Bay still chasing the A's for the A.L.'s second wild-card spot.
Completing a brutal 20-game stretch Thursday with a 12-8 record kept the A's in the running for the division title, which would keep them from having to play a do-or-die wild-card game Oct. 5 for the right to advance to the A.L. Divisional Series.
"Hopefully we can take three from (Seattle) and hopefully those guys over there can lose a few against the Angels," A's right fielder Josh Reddick said. "We've just got to gain ground before they actually get to us."
The Rangers would clinch their third straight division title with a sweep of the Angels. Were they to win two out of three, the A's would have to sweep Seattle to remain alive in the division.
The A's finished 4-6 on a three-city trip that pitted them against three postseason contenders the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Texas. Widening the scope a bit, they were 12-8 during a stretch that saw them play 17 of 20 on the road.
That left A's manager Bob Melvin patting his team on the back.
"I'm proud of these guys, the way they've played," he said before the game. "There hasn't been one game where we've looked like we were just let down. That's pretty impressive this time of year."
The A's entered Thursday with a chance to win three of four from Texas, which would have meant needing less help from the Angels this weekend.
But Blackley has struggled in his past two starts, pitching just three innings combined and surrendering seven earned runs. He gave up homers to Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli in the first inning and was relieved by Jim Miller to start the second.
"Honestly, I don't know what's going on," Blackley said. "I feel pretty good in the 'pen before the game. I get out there and I'm just not throwing it where I want it. I'm kind of running out of ideas on what to do."
The A's staged a comeback in Thursday's game, getting home runs from Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Reddick in the eighth inning to close to 9-7.
Reddick, who snapped an 0-for-30 slump Wednesday, hit homers No. 30 and 31. He's the A's first 30-homer man since Jack Cust hit 33 in 2008.
Moss also reached a milestone with his 20th homer and gives the A's three 20-homer players Reddick, Moss and Cespedes (22) for the first time since 2006.