ARLINGTON -- Given the choice of suspension or appeal, Josh Willingham took the latter on Monday.
In fine follow-up fashion, the A's outfielder made good use of that decision by launching a three-run homer and tallying a season-high five RBIs in a 7-2 series-opening victory over the Rangers.
Willingham was supposed to be serving a one-game suspension for his actions in a contest two days prior, but instead found himself at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington courtesy of his appeal, making the whole thing not seem like such a terrible thing, after all.
It would seem that the very thought crossed his mind, but Willingham insists he never once reflected on the pregame matter throughout the night. Instead, he just hit.
"I feel like when I get some pitches to hit, I gotta be able to hit them, and I was able to do that tonight," he said. "I was happy to be able to help the team tonight and get a couple of big hits."
Those efforts helped jump start a four-run eighth and provided plenty of support for starter Trevor Cahill, who utilized the cruise-control option while throwing seven innings of one-run ball.
Cahill walked one and struck out seven, including four in a row, over seven innings of one-run baseball. He retired nine consecutive batters at one point while improving to 6-0 with an American League-best 1.72 ERA on what's becoming yet another impressive season.
Los Angeles' Jered Weaver and Detroit's Max Scherzer are the only other pitchers in the league who have garnered as many wins, and Cahill joined Scherzer as the only two with 6-0 marks.
"Just another fantastic game," said A's manager Bob Geren. "This is not a great place to pitch, and everybody knows that. To come out and keep rolling the way he is, it's fun to watch. The best thing about it is it doesn't look like he's pitching over his head. He's just pitching the way he normally does, changing it up, hitting his spots, being real consistent and plugging along."
The right-hander's lone mistake came in the fifth, when Texas' Mitch Moreland carried a first-pitch changeup into the right-field stands.
Otherwise, Cahill forced 10 ground-ball outs next to just one in the air, where he is seemingly floating in the midst of a career-high-tying seven-game winning streak, dating back to last season. He has now allowed one run or fewer in seven of his eight starts and has walked two batters or fewer four times.
"He just goes out and does it every fifth day, it seems like, giving us a chance to win," Willingham said.
Cahill now owns a career 8-2 record and 2.18 ERA in 11 starts against the Rangers -- not to mention a 0.98 mark in four outings in Arlington.
The low-key hurler is not one to elaborate on personal success, so when asked about his continued dominance over Texas, Cahill simply shrugged and noted his comfort level against an intimidating, albeit familiar, team.
"I think, with most parks, if you make your pitches, you'll get outs," he said. "Being a ground-ball pitcher, I was able to keep it on the ground. They're a great hitting ballclub. I think part of it is that we face them so much, so I know what their approach is. Everything, it seems, has gone my way against them."
"He's pitched well against us," said Rangers outfielder David Murphy. "He did well again tonight, and we didn't."
Opposing hurler C.J. Wilson surrendered just two hits over seven innings, but he also walked five, including two straight with one out in the third, setting up Willingham's homer. The A's put together seven runs on just four hits.
"We'll take 'em however we can get 'em," Willingham said. "We haven't scored seven runs many times this year."
"That's very rare," Geren said. "I don't remember ever seeing that. The two walks and the homer, that was a big blow. We've always preached that on-base percentage is important, and that's the perfect example of one hit scoring three runs."
Wilson was ultimately tagged with five runs, as both of his inherited runners scored in the eighth when Willingham recorded a two-run single off Ryan Tucker. Kurt Suzuki's ensuing RBI double extended Oakland's lead.
The A's, who climbed two games over the .500 mark for the first time all year, have now won 10 of their past 16 games and lead the season series, 4-1.
"Division rival, they're the team to beat," Cahill said, "So definitely, getting a win in the first game of the series, it helps to keep the momentum going."