OAKLAND – Cameras showed Coco Crisp smiling as he sat in the A's dugout, awaiting a ruling on whether the ball he'd just hit over the left-field wall had stayed fair or hooked just foul.
Manager Bob Melvin had his back turned to the field as three umpires filed back out from the replay area. An announced crowd of 23,495 waited in an expectant murmur.
One umpire's finger went up and twirled, signaling a home run, Crisp rose and copied the gesture with the towel he held in his right hand, and the crowd erupted.
The A's, who had lost a two-run lead on one swing in the top of the inning, gained it right back on Crisp's career-high 17th home run of the season and preserved it in a 4-2 win over the Rangers to pull even with Texas atop the American League West.
Crisp was not smiling an inning later after fouling an inside pitch off his lower right leg. He bent over in pain for several minutes and, after striking out to end the sixth, exited the game. The A's announced Crisp has a right shin contusion, and Melvin said the A's will "see how he is (today)" before determining if he'll play.
Asked after the game how he was feeling, Crisp said: "Fine." He was more expansive on the home run, which he said he didn't think would stay fair having seen teammate Chris Young hook several potential homers just outside the foul pole this season.
"I thought mine was going to do the same," Crisp said. "Got lucky."
If the A's – who improved to 8-2 over their last 10 games, all against serious postseason contenders – must go without Crisp for the rest of the series, they're losing him at a bad time. Since returning to the lineup on a regular basis from a sore wrist on Aug. 19, Crisp has played in 13 games and batted .327 with 14 runs, 10 RBIs and seven home runs.
"It's exciting," reliever Brett Anderson said. "He's the table-setter, and he eats the food, too. He's done it all."
The A's are 41-10 this season when Crisp scores and 30-8 when he drives in a run. He took care of both on one swing Monday, also driving in Michael Choice, who made his major-league debut against the Rangers and had reached on a throwing error by third baseman Adrian Beltre.
"If you ever watch him take batting practice, there are times he tries to hit homers, and he can do it," Melvin said when asked about Crisp's recent power surge. "He's short to the ball, long through, which creates backspin."
It kept Dan Straily in line for the win after the A's right-hander allowed a two-run homer to ninth-place hitter David Murphy in the top of the fifth to tie the score. Straily needed 91 pitches to complete five innings and was replaced in the sixth by Dan Otero, who got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing Lance Berkman's lineout to right and a groundout by Murphy.
Closer Grant Balfour allowed the first two runners to reach in the ninth, the fourth time in five outings he has allowed two or more runners. But Balfour retired the next three hitters, getting Beltre, who batted .381 in August, to ground out for the final out.
The A's took a 2-0 lead in the second on Yoenis Cespedes' first home run since Aug. 16 and an RBI single by Young that became an adventure when the ball got past Texas center fielder Leonys Martin. Young easily reached third but took several short, choppy steps near the bag as third-base coach Mike Gallego waved him home, which cost him as the Rangers' relay beat Young to the plate for the out.
Note – Catcher Derek Norris, recovering from a fractured toe, finished his rehabilitation assignment with the Triple-A River Cats and will rejoin the A's today, Melvin said. Norris is expected to be activated when his 15-day stint on the disabled list expires Thursday.