ARLINGTON, Texas — Yoenis Cespedes gave Oakland an early lead with his bat. He prevented what could have been a huge collapse with his arm.
Cespedes hit a three-run homer in the first inning, then threw out Alex Rios at third base to end a big Texas comeback in the eighth as the Athletics survived a shaky night from the bullpen to extend their AL West lead with a 9-8 victory over the Rangers on Friday night.
The Rangers trailed 9-2 when Elvis Andrus and Rios had two-run singles as part of six-run inning to close within one.
Adrian Beltre's third hit was a single to Cespedes in left field, and the Cuban star ended the threat by throwing out Rios trying to go from first to third, where the tag from Josh Donaldson arrived just about the same time as Rios' foot.
"It was a bang-bang play," Donaldson said. "Cespedes made a perfect throw and I was able to put a tag on it, and it ended up as an out."
Rios said he was certain he would make it to third with the play happening in front of him.
"And actually, I was correct," said Rios, who was ejected by Andy Fletcher for angrily arguing the call. "I believe I was safe on that call."
The A's handed the Rangers their fourth straight loss and moved 4 1/2 games ahead of Texas in the opener of the final series of the regular season between the past two AL West champions.
Cespedes' 23rd homer came off Derek Holland (9-9), who is winless in a career-high seven straight starts.
Dan Straily (10-7) allowed two hits in 5 2-3 innings to win his fourth straight start and beat Texas for the second time in 11 days.
The right-hander might have stayed around longer if he hadn't struggled with four walks and a hit batter. The bullpen was wild, too, and it almost cost the A's the game.
Brett Anderson walked Beltre and A.J. Pierzynski to start the eighth, and Ron Cook later gave Ian Kinsler a free pass with the bases loaded for Oakland's eighth walk.
Andrus followed with a single to right field, and Rios singled to center after a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position.
The call against Rios set off several Rangers. First-base umpire Joe West tossed Texas pitcher Matt Garza for complaining from the dugout in the top of the ninth.
"At that part of the game there were a lot of emotions," Rios said. "We're fired up and to have that rally killed like that, it's disappointing."
Sean Doolittle, who gave up Beltre's hit in the eighth, allowed a double to Robinson Chirinos with two outs in the ninth but ended up striking out the side, getting Jurickson Profar looking for his second save in seven chances.
"We usually lock those games down, but we didn't," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "We put ourselves in a position not to win, but we didn't lose."
Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, and Brandon Moss hit his 27th for Oakland. Derek Norris had three hits.
Holland's shortest outing of the season ended with no outs in the fourth after consecutive singles from Norris and Kurt Suzuki. The left-hander has been stuck on nine wins since Aug. 4 and is 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA in three starts in September.