OAKLAND, Calif. – Hideki Matsui would much rather have hit his first home run at home in the Coliseum weeks ago.
Yet Oakland’s new designated hitter could hardly complain about how the clout finally came — even if an announced crowd of 9,193 was all that saw him do it during a rare Monday matinee.
Matsui clobbered the first pitch of the 10th inning from Darren Oliver and sent it deep into the right-field seats for a game-winning homer, lifting the Oakland Athletics to a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
“Hopefully after today’s game there will be 100 more people,” Matsui quipped.
Grant Balfour (2-1) walked three batters in the top of the 10th to load the bases for pinch-hitter Yorvit Torrealba, who struck out swinging on the right-hander’s 30th pitch.
Josh Willingham hit a tying home run leading off the eighth against Texas reliever Arthur Rhodes, and the A’s took three of four from the reigning AL champions.
Matsui’s clout against Oliver (1-3) was the third of the season for the slugger and Oakland’s first walkoff homer of 2011. He added an RBI groundout in the fifth.
“If you saw it or heard it, you knew it was way back there,” A’s teammate Andy LaRoche said of the winning drive.
Texas has lost six of eight and 12 of 19 following a 9-1 start.
Michael Young hit a two-run double and a sacrifice fly but the bullpen couldn’t hold a one-run lead for Texas starter Derek Holland, who allowed eight hits and three runs in seven innings.
The Rangers were hoping to gain some momentum from the series finale heading into a three-game series at Seattle in which Texas will miss Mariners ace and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.
“We’re not where we want to be but we’re not going to panic either,” manager Ron Washington said. “It was real tough. I thought we played hard, things just didn’t fall into place.”
Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki homered for the second time in three games and went 6 for 16 with two homers, five RBIs and three runs scored during the series. The first-time father was activated from the paternity leave list before Friday’s opener with the Rangers following the birth of daughter, Malia, on Thursday.
Matsui is batting .242 in his first season with the A’s and still finding himself at the plate.
“The adjustments are ongoing on a daily basis,” he said. “That’s what I have been doing and it’s what I will keep doing.”
Young and Adrian Beltre had back-to-back sacrifice flies in the fifth but Texas couldn’t bounce back from a 7-2 loss Sunday. Washington sat second baseman Ian Kinsler and used third baseman Beltre as the designated hitter to give him a day off his legs.
Brandon McCarthy, facing Texas for the first time since 2006, allowed four runs and six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked two.
The A’s overcame two more errors — both by McCarthy — that gave them an AL-leading 27, one more than the Rangers after Texas also had one Monday. Oakland is also tied with Houston for most errors in the majors.
“We’ve been up and down through April,” McCarthy said. “To start May like this is something we needed. The bullpen was outstanding. They stood up and got my back.”
David DeJesus put the A’s ahead when he scored on a safety squeeze bunt by Cliff Pennington in the second. Suzuki hit his third home run leading off the fourth.
Oakland third baseman LaRoche did his part to keep himself in the lineup with a pair of base hits. He batted 6 for 11 during the four games with Texas.
A’s center fielder Coco Crisp had the day off as a precaution after he returned Sunday from a three-game absence with tightness in his left hamstring.
Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be An American” blared between the first and second innings a day after President Barack Obama announced the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden. A’s public address announcer Dick Callahan asked fans to “Raise their Budweisers” in appreciation for those who serve our country. One female fan sported a short-sleeved flag shirt.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)