Rangers easily Cruz past Zito, first-place A's

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- As well as the Oakland Athletics have
played over the past month, Jay Payton's problems in left field infuriated fans who have become so accustomed to winning every day.

Rookie Nelson Cruz hit an inside-the-park homer past Payton and also a three-run shot on the way to a career-high five RBI as the Texas Rangers beat the A's 8-1 on Monday.

In the second, Cruz lined the ball to left and Payton initially broke back on it but then charged in and dived. The ball went under his glove and rolled to the wall in left-center. It was the 21st inside-the-park homer in Rangers history and first since Mike Lamb on Aug. 31, 2001, against Kansas City.

"I saw him sliding and lying on the ground and the ball getting past him, so I thought about third," Cruz said. "But the coach kept waving me."

Payton had another tough play when he tumbled on Gerald Laird's
fourth-inning double. Laird scored two batters later on Cruz's RBI single toward Payton. The left fielder also missed the ball off the wall on Eric Young's leadoff triple in the sixth.

He was booed when he came to bat in the bottom half -- and didn't appreciate that treatment. He called the crowd several names afterward, even questioning fans' intelligence.

"The first ball cut on me," he said. "The second ball got in the sun. The third ball was a missile off the wall. They wanted to boo me anyway. ... If that's what they want to do, more power to them. I couldn't really care less about the people who were booing."

Robinson Tejeda took a shutout into the seventh, Ian Kinsler added a solo homer and Young hit a two-run double in his first big-league at-bat in more than a month. Cruz, a former Oakland farmhand, had his first career two-homer game as the Rangers battered Barry Zito to end the lefty's three-start winning streak.

"This really means a lot," said Cruz, who was nursing a swollen left ankle afterward. "They gave me the opportunity to play and now I can show I can play."

Frank Thomas singled in Oakland's only run -- it was unearned -- in the seventh, and the Big Hurt tied Fred McGriff for 36th on the RBI list at 1,550. The first-place A's saw their AL West lead cut
to 6½ games over the second-place Los Angeles Angels.

Cruz, likely to compete for a starting job in the outfield next season, doubled his career home run total to four and increased his RBI to 13.

Cruz had an RBI single in the fourth and then connected in the sixth with a drive over the wall in right that chased Zito (15-9).

The A's got three straight two-out singles against Tejeda (4-3) in the third but Thomas flied out. Tejeda, who had a six-game winning streak for Triple-A Oklahoma before getting called up Aug. 19, won his third consecutive decision. He allowed 10 hits, struck
out one and walked two in 6 1/3 innings.

Thomas also flied out to deep center with two runners aboard in the fifth.

Zito walked three in the first, ending a stretch of 20 straight games in which Oakland's starters hadn't given up more than two walks.

Young came to the plate with the bases loaded and doubled to left-center, his first hit and plate appearance since July 29 with San Diego. The Padres released him Aug. 1 and he signed a minor-league deal with Texas on Aug. 11 before joining the Rangers on Aug. 25.

Zito allowed seven runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, walked six and struck out two in only his third defeat in 11 starts since the All-Star break. He carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of his last outing against the Rangers on Aug. 25 and hadn't lost since a 14-0 beating at Texas on Aug. 9.

"There was some strange stuff going on out there today," Zito said. "I liked the aggressiveness in Payton to lay out. I don't know how stuff like that happens. It was surprising, though."

Game notes
There hadn't been an in-the-park homer in the Coliseum since May 9, 2003, by Terrence Long vs. the New York Yankees. ... Texas catcher Rod Barajas missed his fourth straight game with a strained back. ... A's first baseman Dan Johnson, called up Thursday, earned another start Monday after hitting a grand slam in Sunday's 10-1 win over the Orioles. He doubled and singled. ... Zito lost to the Rangers for only the fifth time in 30 career starts. Three of the losses have come this season, all in Oakland.