ARLINGTON, Texas -- Hank Blalock has battled injuries and learned a new position in an eventful 2008 season.
So it's hard to blame the former All-Star Game hero for not looking too far into the future and enjoying his current success.Blalock hit the go-ahead home run in the seventh and the Texas Rangers beat the Oakland Athletics 6-4 Tuesday night to move back into second place in the American League West."I always try to play to the best of my ability," said Blalock, who had the game-winning blast in the 2003 All-Star Game. "I want to play hard and be productive. I don't know whether this is going to carry over into next season. All I can control is my effort."Blalock has missed 91 games this season with numerous injuries -- including a torn hamstring and a right shoulder injury that forced him to move from third base to first.The rust has worn off in September as Blalock is 14-for-30 with three home runs and nine RBIs over the past nine games."You can't look at Hank and say that he's some rookie," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He knows what he's doing. He's been doing it for a while. I'm not surprised he's swinging the bat. He's that type of player."Texas snapped its five-game losing streak. The A's had won eight of nine, including a 4-3 victory Monday to move into second place for the first time since July 25."Even though we'll be going home instead of going to the playoffs, we've got a short-term goal to try to beat Oakland and get second place," Blalock said. "I'm trying to do anything to help that out."Jamey Wright (8-7) allowed Cliff Pennington's RBI grounder that gave Oakland a 4-3 lead in the seventh.Oakland reliever Alan Embree (2-5) retired the first two batters in the bottom half of the inning. Milton Bradley, who had three hits, had a broken bat single and stole second base. Marlon Byrd hit a soft single to score Bradley and tie the game.That set the stage for Blalock, who sent the game into extra innings Monday with a home run. He lined a 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats to put Texas on top 6-4.Blalock has homered in three straight games to give him 10 -- the sixth straight season he has reached double figures."It was one bad pitch," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "If one of those fist jobs are outs, the inning is over."Jack Cust and Travis Buck each homered for Oakland, which had won four in a row and eight of nine.Rangers starter Dustin Nippert allowed four runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. The A's loaded the bases on Nippert with one out before Wright came into the game.Frank Francisco pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fifth save in 11 chances.Rookie Oakland starter Josh Outman, who beat Texas on Sept. 13 for his only career win, gave up three runs in six innings. The left-hander walked one and struck out four in his third big league start.Cust hit his 31st homer, which landed about six rows into the upper deck in right field, leading off the second.After the Rangers tied it on Travis Metcalf's sacrifice fly, Buck hit a two-run shot in the third.Bradley's RBI single cut Oakland's lead to 3-2, and Byrd hit a bloop single to tie the game at 3.
The A's struck out six times, extending their club record to 1,189 this season. Only 28 teams in history have struck out at least 1,200 times. ... Francisco has pitched 11 2/3 scoreless innings over 12 appearances dating back to Aug. 22.