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Donaldson Powers A’s Back Into 1st Place In AL West

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OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — The Oakland Athletics are in sole possession of first place in the AL West for the first time in more than a month.

It’s just not that big of a deal to Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson had three hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning, and the A’s beat the Houston Astros 7-5 on Friday night to jump ahead of Texas in the division.

Jed Lowrie added two hits and two RBIs for Oakland, which has won six of eight. Yoenis Cespedes and Nate Freiman had two hits apiece.

The A’s grabbed a half-game lead over the Rangers, who lost 6-5 at the Los Angeles Angels. But it was around this time last year that Oakland began its late push to overtake Texas for the division crown.

“It doesn’t matter until the end of the season, we know that too well,” Donaldson said. “We’re really not trying to focus on it right now. We’re trying to take care of our business.”

A.J. Griffin (13-9) gave up four runs over six innings but matched his career high of nine strikeouts to win his third straight decision.

Matt Dominguez drove in a pair of runs for Houston after sitting out the past three games with a sinus infection.

The A’s trailed 3-1 and 4-3 before scoring twice in the fourth on Lowrie’s RBI single and a groundout by Cespedes.

Donaldson doubled and scored in the third, and then singled and scored in the fourth. But his big blow came in the sixth, a towering drive to center against reliever Phil Humber that gave Oakland a 7-4 lead.

Donaldson went 3 for 5 and is batting .349 with two homers and nine RBIs in 17 games this season against major league-worst Houston (47-94).

Eight of the A’s nine starters had at least one hit, and five different players drove in runs.

“That shows that we have multiple ways that we can score runs,” Donaldson said. “That’s what it takes. If you’re going to score seven, eight runs, it’s not all the time going to come by the long ball. It’s going to come by guys manufacturing and having good approaches at the plate.”

Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook combined to retire six batters, and Grant Balfour worked the ninth for his 37th save.

The Astros, who had won three of the previous four games in the season series, got the tying run on base in the ninth after an error by second baseman Eric Sogard allowed Jonathan Villar to score.

Balfour got Jason Castro to ground into a fielder’s choice, and then fanned Dominguez to end the game.

“The at-bats were tremendous, especially in the ninth inning,” Houston manager Bo Porter said. “I really felt like Dominguez was going to get a base hit there. It’s unfortunate we came up short.”

It was an appropriate end to the back-and-forth contest.

Houston scored three times in the third to open a 3-1 lead. Dominguez had a two-run single and Jose Altuve also drove in a run with a base hit.

Oakland tied it in the bottom half when Lowrie doubled in Donaldson and scored on Freiman’s single.

Villar drove in Brett Wallace with a bunt single in the fourth, putting the Astros back in front. The lead didn’t last very long, with Oakland going in front for good in the bottom half.

Houston starter Dallas Keuchel (5-9) struggled in his third start against the A’s this season, allowing 10 hits and five runs in just 3 2-3 innings.

He was hurt by his defense.

Left fielder Chris Carter dropped Brandon Moss’ routine fly ball in the sixth. First baseman Wallace later dropped a foul ball in the eighth for another error.

NOTES: A’s CF Coco Crisp has an extra-base hit in seven consecutive games, the longest streak by an Oakland player since 2003. … Villar finished with three hits. … Houston CF Brandon Barnes was ejected in the sixth inning after arguing with home plate umpire Alan Porter from the Astros’ dugout. Barnes appeared to get hit by a pitch from Griffin earlier in the inning but Porter ruled otherwise. Barnes then struck out. … Castro (right knee) was back in the Houston lineup as the DH after missing three games. Bo Porter did not know when Castro would be able to catch again. … A’s RF Josh Reddick (right wrist) is expected to take batting practice on the field Tuesday in Minnesota. … Brett Oberholtzer (4-1), coming off Houston’s first shutout of the season, takes on Dan Straily (8-7) in the third game of the series.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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