By Stephen Hawkins
The Texas Rangers keep wasting outstanding pitching performances by Yu Darvish.
And they are running out of chances to catch Oakland in the AL West.
Bartolo Colon scattered seven hits over eight innings and the division-leading A's beat Texas for the second time in less than 24 hours. Oakland's 1-0 win Saturday stretched its division lead to 5½ games with two weeks left in the regular season.
"From now on, every game is a must-win situation. We've still got a lot of games ahead," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "The division is what we all want. We don't want a wild card. ... We've got to keep fighting."
While the Rangers have 15 games left, the only head-to-head matchup comes in Sunday's series finale.
Darvish (12-9) struck out 10 over seven innings in his fourth 1-0 loss of the season. The right-hander from Japan has lost his last four starts, the last two by 1-0 scores, and is winless his last six.
Texas scored two runs or less for Darvish his last seven starts. That includes his 2-1 win Aug. 12 when he took a no-hitter into the eighth at Houston.
"I can't control it. I can't do anything about it. The only thing I can do is concentrate on the batter in front of me," Darvish said through an interpreter, insisting that he has no frustration. "As a pitcher, you can't control how many runs are scored. Am I going to go into the lineup and help the lineup? I can't."
Darvish struck out the side in the first, but Josh Donaldson walked and scored on a two-out double by Brandon Moss into the right field corner. Second baseman Ian Kinsler's relay throw to the plate was a bit up the line.
"He gave up the first run in the first inning on a double. Then he shut them down, which is what he's supposed to do," manager Ron Washington said. "We expected him to pitch well."
The A's won for the seventh time in eight games, and have already clinched the key division series. They led 9-2 in Friday night's opener and held on to win 9-8 after Texas had a six-run eighth.
"It's big for us to be able to pull these victories off," A's center fielder Coco Crisp said. "One was weird, the other one today was just a pitcher's duel."
Colon (16-6) struck out seven and lowered what is already his career-best ERA to 2.73. The 40-year-old right-hander became the first to reach 20 victories against Texas, his most wins in his career against any team and the most by any pitcher against Texas — breaking what had been a tie with Bert Blyleven, Dennis Leonard and Jack Morris.
Grant Balfour worked the ninth for his 38th save in 40 chances.
Texas has lost all five games on this homestand, and is 2-10 in September.
Oakland overcame a five-game deficit against the Rangers in the final nine games last year, including a season-ending three-game sweep at home of Texas to clinch the AL West title.
Other than the A's last season, only two other teams have overcome deficits of five games or more with 15 or fewer games left since 1969, according to STATS. In 2007, Philadelphia had a 5½-game deficit against the New York Mets with 15 games left, the same the Rangers face now. The St. Louis Cardinals were 5½ games behind Houston with 11 games remaining in 2001.
Darvish had his majors-best 12th game of at least 10 strikeouts this season, and the 20th in his 58 career games. He also surpassed 250 strikeouts, becoming only the fourth pitcher to accomplish that within his first two MLB seasons — the others: Tim Lincecum (265 in 2008), Dwight Gooden (276 in 1984, and 268 in 1985) and Herb Score (263 in 1956).
Darvish is 1-6 in seven career starts against the A's, losing the last six. He is 0-4 with a 4.13 ERA in four starts against the division rival this season.
"It feels good to beat him," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "This is the best stuff we've seen him have. ... We got a quick run on him in the first and then he definitely settled in."