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Oakland Athletics' Adam Rosales scores at under the attempted tag by Texas Rangers' Geovany Soto during the third inning of a baseball game Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. Rosales reached home safely on a Jonny Gomes double. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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, 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 Friday, 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 on Thursday with a 12-8 record keeps the A's in the running for the A.L. West 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. Division 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 gotta gain ground before they actually get to us."

The Rangers will 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 road trip that pitted them against postseason contenders Detroit, the New York Yankees and Texas. Widen 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 (5-4) has struggled mightily 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 Thursday 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."

Melvin acknowledged that the Rangers' righty-dominated lineup poses a problem for the lefty. That doesn't bode well considering Blackley's next turn would also come against Texas on Tuesday.

There aren't any obvious alternatives on the current pitching staff, and acquiring a pitcher outside the organization, for one start, also seems a stretch.

Melvin was asked if he thought the A's had other options for Tuesday's start.

"I haven't thought about that yet," he said, "and I don't know that we do."

  • The A's staged a comeback in Thursday's game, getting home runs from Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss and Josh 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 on Thursday. He's the A's first 30-homer man since Jack Cust hit 33 in 2008.

    "(Reaching 30) is a great personal achievement," said Reddick, playing his first full big league season. "I didn't really think I'd do that this year. The important thing is where we're at as a team."

    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. That year, Frank Thomas had 39, Nick Swisher 35 and Eric Chavez 22.

  • Saturday's game against the Seattle Mariners was picked up for broadcast by Comcast SportsNet California. First pitch is 1:05 p.m.

    For more on the A's, go to Joe Stiglich's blog at ibabuzz.com/athletics and follow him at twitter.com/joestiglich.

    A.L. Wild-card race

    W L Pct. GB
    Baltimore 89 67 .571 --
    A's 88 68 .564 --
    L.A. Angels 86 70 .551 2
    Tampa Bay 86 70 .551 2
    Chicago 82 74 .526 6
    Note: Top two teams earn wild-card berths.

    Magic number

    5 Combination of A's wins and Angels/Rays losses to clinch A.L. wild-card spot.

    FRIDAY'S GAME

    Seattle (Blake Beavan 10-10) at A's (A.J. Griffin 6-1), 7:05 p.m. CSNCA
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