OAKLAND – In a quiet way, Coco Crisp set the tone for the A's 4-2 win over the Rangers on Saturday on the second pitch in the bottom of the first inning, dropping a bunt down the third-base line for a single.
Eric Sogard followed with a sacrifice bunt, which set up Jed Lowrie's single for the game's first run.
A day after the Rangers blasted two two-run homers in an 8-3 win, the A's were content to play small ball to even their weekend series and return their lead in the American League West to 3 1/2 games, though Yoenis Cespedes hitting his 17th home run following Lowrie's single loomed large as well.
With Oakland nursing a 3-2 lead and runners on the corners in the seventh, Sogard again dragged a bunt to the left of the mound, where Matt Garza's only play was to first base. The Texas starter appeared to take issue with the squeeze, yelling in Sogard's direction, but he couldn't deny its effectiveness.
After stranding 20 runners in two games, going 1 for 19 with men in scoring position, the A's manufactured enough offense Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak and hand the Rangers their first loss since last Sunday.
"You're trying to get a guy out of rhythm a little early on," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the small-ball strategy. "And then at the end we're just trying to add on a run. In games like that, adding on one run feels like more. So that was kind of the thinking."
Sogard said he couldn't make out what Garza said to him, but, "He was just yelling at me going by.
"Just kind of heat of the moment, for sure," Sogard said. "Obviously, we scored the run, so he's not going to be happy any time. But it happens. We're happy about it."
Sogard said the A's discussed before the game about trying to make Garza come off the mound to field his position. Garza faced the A's earlier this season while with the Chicago Cubs and held them to a run and four hits in eight innings. He pitched eight again Saturday but this time took his first loss with the Rangers.
All told, the A's had three sacrifice bunts after entering the game with 10 this season. The third belonged to catcher Stephen Vogt, moving Alberto Callaspo to second in the seventh after Callaspo's leadoff walk.
Vogt and first baseman Brandon Moss were among the players who attempted to bunt for hits as well.
"It was an interesting day, to say the least," Vogt said. "But you've got to do what you've got to do to win a game."
It made a winner of Jarrod Parker for the first time since June 18, as the right-hander allowed two runs over six innings after six consecutive starts without a decision.
Starting with Leonys Martin's leadoff double in the first, Parker pitched through traffic for most of the afternoon, allowing eight runners through five innings. But four of his six strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, and he limited the damage to an Adrian Beltre RBI single in the third and a solo homer by Ian Kinsler in the fifth.
Parker said he had trouble in the middle innings finding a comfortable landing spot on the mound, which also seemed to bother Garza and A's reliever Ryan Cook, who called for a groundskeeper in the eighth. Cook, though, retired the middle of the Rangers' lineup in order, and Grant Balfour pitched a perfect ninth for his 29th save.
Notes – The A's optioned left-hander Tommy Milone to Triple-A Sacramento and recalled reliever Evan Scribner. Milone had one of his worst starts of the season Friday, allowing six runs and a season-high nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.
With two days off next week, the A's can get by with four starters until mid-August. The A's also didn't want to be caught short in the bullpen this weekend after Dan Otero threw 3 1/3 innings in relief of Milone, Melvin said.
Milone has a 5.99 ERA in his last eight starts and didn't complete four innings in two of his last four. He said he believes "what's been hurting me is being up in the zone, so take this time to kind of work on that, throw quality strikes instead of just throwing strikes."
Melvin said Milone, who is 9-9 with a 4.39 ERA this season, "just needs to go down there and do his thing. We still have a lot of confidence in Tommy. He's still a big part of this team."
Catcher John Jaso (concussion) said he's "progressing" but still having symptoms, such as ringing in his ears when he wakes up "like I was at a rock concert the night before." Jaso underwent more tests Saturday and likely won't accompany the A's on their trip to Cincinnati and Toronto, though he didn't rule out meeting the team mid-trip.
Vogt, meanwhile, was hit on the back of the head by Jurickson Profar on a follow-through swing in the sixth and left the game before the ninth after taking a foul ball off the mask. Vogt said he had a headache and met with team doctors after the game, but he and Melvin said they didn't immediately notice concussion symptoms.
Left-hander Brett Anderson (right foot), who faced hitters in batting practice Friday for the first time since April, will throw two innings in a simulated game Tuesday in Stockton, Melvin said. Anderson will throw about 30 pitches without a protective screen.
The A's confirmed during the game that they acquired minor-league reliever Fernando Nieve from Cleveland for cash considerations. Nieve, who was 5-3 with a 1.81 ERA at Triple-A Columbus, will report to the River Cats.
Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015, and read his online reports at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.