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TEX@OAK: Taylor hits the first home run of his career

OAKLAND -- Though out of the races themselves, the A's are intertwined with the American League playoff picture.

Their play over the next week could largely factor into the fate of the Rangers and Angels, a pair of AL West counterparts who essentially have one week to make their final postseason push.

So, it's their job to mainly keep things interesting, and while they failed to do as much on Tuesday, when the Rangers watched their magic number shrink to four after a dominating 7-2 victory, the A's found a way to make news off the field.

It appears Bob Melvin is close to ridding himself of his interim title in favor of a permanent one, as the A's manager is expected to reach a three-year deal -- an announcement likely set for Wednesday, with a news conference scheduled.

Melvin has long been favored to assume the role he's held since June, when Bob Geren was dismissed. And once he does, he'll likely include improvement over a Texas club that has claimed 11 of the past 12 games against Oakland on his to-do list.

"I think we're all tired of getting beat by Texas," he said after Tuesday's loss.

Perhaps no more frustrated by the ongoing woes is righty Rich Harden, who upped his season ERA against his former team to 10.50 on Tuesday.

The A's hurler got two quick outs to start the game but was ultimately allowed to notch just seven more, as he lasted three innings, giving up six runs -- five earned -- over that span before handing the ball over to rookie Graham Godfrey in the fourth.

After setting down Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus in the first, Harden surrendered back-to-back base hits to Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, both of whom found their way to home plate just a minute later when Adrian Beltre unloaded on a 1-1 fastball for a three-run homer to center field.

"I made some pitches, they got a couple of hits, and the pitch to Beltre was in, maybe not enough," Harden said. "He was looking for that."

Texas' 3-0 lead, which quickly built Harden's pitch count to 38 after one inning, was expanded to four in the second, when Nelson Cruz hit a leadoff double and, following an Endy Chavez groundout that moved him to third, scored courtesy of a wild pitch from Harden.

The right-hander gave up two more runs in the third and finished the frame with 71 pitches. That was enough for Melvin, who elected for another righty to have a go at Texas' potent lineup.

"Their approach up there, they don't swing at a lot of bad pitches and they work the count a lot, too," Harden said. "They foul pitches off and try to work the count in their favor and look for a pitch to hit. One through nine, they're pretty tough. A similar approach that the Yankees take, too. That's a tough lineup."

Not surprisingly, the maker of said lineup agreed.

"You have to pitch our lineup tough one through nine," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We made him work and we made him throw pitches. He didn't last very long."

Godfrey, though, fared quite well, compiling four scoreless innings despite putting the Rangers' leadoff man on in three of those frames. He walked just one and struck out three, handing his teammates an opportunity to make a dent in a six-run deficit.

The A's managed to do so only slightly, though, with Michael Taylor's first career home -- a shot to left field off Texas lefty Derek Holland -- with two outs in the fifth representing the lone run off the southpaw.

The ball barely got comfortable in the stands before it was thrown back onto the field and ultimately made its way to Taylor's locker.

"It's obviously sort of a special thing, something you dream about," Taylor said. "I'm kind of disappointed it came in a loss. Technically, it brought us closer, but we were never really threatening and it's nice to do those things in situations like that, but hopefully it's the first of many. It's nice to get the first one out of the way and enjoy it a little bit."

Otherwise, Holland proved nearly flawless, surrendering just one other hit through seven innings to improve to 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three starts against the A's this season and 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his career.

Texas is 12-5 against the A's this year, a matchup that many assumed early in the season would bring about a fierce battle for first place in the West. Instead, Oakland -- whose final run came courtesy Coco Crisp's ninth-inning homer -- fell to 16 games under .500, while the Rangers moved within one victory of a 90-win season.

Still, the A's can find other ways to mess with their division foes.

"At this point, they're in a playoff race, and you can try and change things," Harden said. Comments