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TEX@OAK: Crisp picks up an RBI with a single to left

OAKLAND -- Center fielder Coco Crisp was back Sunday, and so was his '70s-style Afro.

His A's teammates hope both stick around for a while after Crisp ignited their offense in a 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.

After missing three games with a sore left quadriceps, Crisp returned to the top of A's lineup and led off the bottom of the first with a ringing double to left, sparking a three-run rally. He drove in a run in the second with a sharp single to left, making it 4-0 and giving left-hander Gio Gonzalez more than enough offensive support to pick up his third win and snap his two-game losing streak.

"First off, it was exciting to have run support," Gonzalez said. "And second off, Coco's hair, wow. He kind of like gave it a second chance. He was going with that ponytail look and a couple of the players got on him and said, 'You know what, you've got to give a second chance for that Afro. Bring it back.' And it worked. I don't think he's going to braid his hair for quite a while now. We're going to be seeing the Oscar Gamble for a while. Keep it, Coco. It's going to work for you."

Crisp said he'll keep the retro look for at least Monday's series finale against Texas, but if he keeps hitting the way he did Sunday, the Cleveland Indians may have to fear the 'fro when they come to town Tuesday for a three-game set.

"It feels good," Crisp said of being back in the lineup. "Obviously, that's what you want to do as a leadoff hitter is get on base. I guess I have to get a hit to get on base since I'm not drawing walks. But it definitely felt good after a few days off to come back and right off the bat get something going."

Crisp said that A's manager Bob Geren wasn't a huge fan of his big hair, but that could change if he keeps stinging the ball.

"Skipper, I think he's digging the ponytail," Crisp said. "The braids are the best, obviously, but ... the Afro, after I got the two hits today, I guess anything goes. As long as you're getting on base, you can go out there with a half-bald head or long hair or whatever.

"[Geren] was pushing me toward the ponytail, but the guys were like, 'Man, you spend all that time taking your braids out, you might as well let it flow. I did, and it worked. We were able to pull out the win, not necessarily because of the 'fro but because Gio pitched a great game and our hitters hit today."

The A's needed a win after suffering an 11-2 loss to the first-place Rangers on Saturday. Gonzalez needed a bounce-back game after two rough outings. After his first three starts this season, Gonzalez was 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA and looked all but unbeatable. Then he lost to the Red Sox and Angels, as his record fell to 2-2 and his ERA rose to 2.70. He gave up eight hits and four earned runs each time, lasting six innings against Boston and five against Los Angeles.

Gonzalez said a few video sessions with pitching coach Ron Romanick helped get him turned around. It also helped to have veteran pitcher Dallas Braden, his mentor and motivator, back in the dugout after missing Gonzalez's last two starts while rehabbing his injured throwing arm.

"He was definitely talking about more of a mental approach than it was mechanical for me," Gonzalez said of Romanick. "We did sit down and watch a little bit of video of my last couple starts then watched last year's video and put them together. We figured out what was going on. Again, it was more like staying back and slowing down the mechanics. My last two starts was more rushing.

"I did blame my last two starts on Dallas Braden, so he's getting credit for those," Gonzalez joked. "Today, having him on my side, it's always great to have the corner guy in the ring. It was fun to go out there and attack the zone and build confidence, especially with a team like this that was swinging hard. Any mistake, they would have definitely made you pay for it."

Gonzalez allowed just five hits and two runs over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked just two, improving his record to 3-2. He improved his career record against Texas to 4-1 and his mark in Oakland against the Rangers to 3-0.

Gonzalez didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning when Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus' leadoff blooper down the right-field line fell in for a single in front of hard-charging right fielder Conor Jackson.

The Rangers didn't score until the sixth when Andrus doubled to left-center, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Michael Young's single to left.

"He's always got good stuff," Rangers center fielder David Murphy said. "From the left side, he's tough crossing with his fastball. He's got velocity, and his curveball is as good of one as any left-hander in the league. You know what's coming, but he's tough. He just beat us. It's tough to get in a hole early and try to fight back against a guy like that."

Gonzalez gave the A's a scare in the fourth inning when he lunged to his left for Young's hot shot up the middle and wound up on the ground in pain. When he got up, Gonzalez stretched both arms into the air, then rubbed his left side, as trainer Nick Paparesta examined him. Gonzalez tossed a few pitches to see if he was OK, and then retired the next two Rangers to get out of the inning.

"He cramped up a little bit in the side," Geren said. "Sure, when a guy's pitching that well, any of our pitchers, you don't want to see anything like that. It's a little bit of a scary moment, but he reassured both Nick and myself that he was OK."

The A's jumped on Rangers starter Matt Harrison for three runs in the first inning. After Crisp led off with a double and Daric Barton worked a walk, Jackson ripped a double down the right-field line, bringing both runners home. Jackson tagged up and went to third on Josh Willingham's flyout to right field, and he scored when Kurt Suzuki grounded a single through the hole past Andrus.

The A's made it 4-0 in the second and knocked Harrison out of the game. With one out, Andy LaRoche doubled down the left-field line then moved to third on Cliff Pennington's groundout. Crisp then lined an RBI single to left, scoring LaRoche.

"It was a good day all around for us," LaRoche said. "Obviously Gio went out there and did a phenomenal job like he has most of the season. It was great to get some run support and get on them early. Instead of pitching from behind, we were pitching with the lead the whole game. That's great for our pitchers. It takes a lot of pressure off them. It's a big win for us after coming off a very lopsided loss yesterday."

The A's entered the game hitting an anemic .237, but with the calendar flipped to May, they seemed to hit the switch and put a charge into their offense. They pounded out 11 hits against the Rangers. Crisp, Jackson, Suzuki and LaRoche each had two-hit days. Both Jackson and Suzuki drove in a pair of runs. The A's didn't go deep, but they had five doubles, one each from Crisp, Jackson, LaRoche, Barton and Hideki Matsui, who also scored the 1,500th run of his career, spanning his years in Japan and the Major Leagues.

Crisp, of course, was the catalyst.

"He was really hot before he got hurt," LaRoche said. "He came back and it was like he didn't even miss a beat. Second pitch of the game, double. Next at-bat, first pitch, RBI. It's good to have him back."

Not to mention his Afro.

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