Left fielder Josh Willingham was busy demolishing a Gatorade bar, so he didn't witness the biggest moment of the A's season as it began unfolding Monday.

No matter.

His ears told him all there was to know about Hideki Matsui's walkoff homer that beat the Texas Rangers 5-4.

"I took a bite of my bar and heard the crack," Willingham said. "I looked up and saw the ball and knew it was a home run."

Matsui ended things quickly in the bottom of the 10th, crushing the first pitch from lefty Darren Oliver deep over the right field wall.

It marked Matsui's biggest highlight yet in an A's uniform, and it put an exclamation point on a morale-boosting four days for his club, which moved within one game of first place in the American League West.

The A's took three of four from Texas, the defending A.L. champion, and they did it Monday with a weapon the Rangers themselves are better known for -- the long ball.

The A's connected for three homers -- one from Kurt Suzuki, a game-tying blast from Willingham in the eighth and Matsui's no-doubter in the 10th, the team's first walkoff homer of 2011.

Matsui was mobbed by jubilant teammates as he crossed home plate.

"Definitely the most exciting game of the year," A's manager Bob Geren said. "I've never seen this group this animated after a win. I hope they didn't hit their head on the dugout. That ball came off the bat and it was loud."

The irony was how few people were present to experience it.

An announced crowd of 9,193 showed up to the Coliseum on a rare Monday afternoon game -- the smallest turnout for an A's home game since they drew 8,874 on May 3, 2010.

That also came against the Rangers.

On Monday, there was plenty of evidence pointing to an A's defeat.

Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy committed two errors -- both on bunt plays -- that contributed to four unearned runs for Texas. The A's left nine men on base and finished 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

But more so than any game this season, they found a variety of ways to cross home plate.

Cliff Pennington executed a safety squeeze bunt that scored David DeJesus in the second.

Willingham smoked a double off the wall in right-center in the fifth to put runners on second and third. Matsui followed with an RBI ground out that pulled the A's to within 4-3.

Then Willingham hit a hanging changeup from Arthur Rhodes deep into the left-field seats to make it 4-4 in the eighth.

McCarthy left after six innings, and five A's relievers combined for four shutout innings.

That included Grant Balfour's high-wire act in the top of the 10th, when he walked the bases loaded but struck out pinch hitter Yorvit Torrealba to strand the runners.

Matsui, hitting just .242, connected for his third homer of the season -- and first in front of the home fans -- to end it.

"Timing-wise, it might have been a little late to hit (a homer) at home," Matsui said through translator Roger Kahlon. "But to be able to hit it in that fashion and help the team win, I'm just happy."

The A's moved back over .500 at 15-14, and McCarthy noted the significance of taking three of four from the Rangers, considered the A.L. West favorites by many entering the season.

"Hopefully it takes some of the edge off them in our mind, that we can stay with anybody as long as we do the things we're supposed to."

TUESday's game
Cleveland (Fausto Carmona 2-3) at A's (Tyson Ross 1-2), 7:05 p.m., CSNCA