ARLINGTON, Texas -- The way the A's explained it after a 9-3 win over Texas' Martin Perez, beating the American League ERA leader is easy.
Batters lay off pitches not in the strike zone. Wait for pitches that are in the strike zone. Then hack.
The A's did it to Yu Darvish on Monday and to Perez on Tuesday, systematically dismantling the heart of the Rangers' starting rotation. That meant that A's starter Scott Kazmir came out a winner in his poorest game with the team.
"Both nights we battled their starter," Kazmir said after his five-inning, three-run effort, a game that was mopped up with the bullpen throwing four scoreless innings. "That's always going to be the key for us."
Catcher Derek Norris doubled home two runs in the first inning, then doubled to add another RBI in the third as the A's beat up a starter who had a league-best 26 consecutive scoreless innings, including a shutout in Oakland last Wednesday.
"Last Tuesday (a 5-4 ninth-inning loss in the Coliseum) was a hard one," Norris said. "I think we got to the ballpark the next day (against Perez) and were a little down."
The result that time was a 3-0 loss, but there was no hangover this time.
First, Oakland rallied behind Sonny Gray's three-hitter for a 4-0 win Monday, ending Darvish's streak of 56 consecutive starts pitching at least five innings. Then came Tuesday when Oakland pinned a career-high eight earned runs on Perez, whose ERA more than doubled from a league-best 1.42 to 2.95.
"That's what this team does," outfielder Craig Gentry said. Gentry was a Ranger until this year, and in his short time with the A's has been impressed by the way the A's lay off bad pitches and attack ones in the strike zone.
"Even against Darvish we were doing it," Gentry said. "And then tonight. We made both pitchers pitch." That does sound easy.
"We got on Perez early," manager Bob Melvin said. "you have to. If he gets into a rhythm early you'll be in trouble."
That made Norris' at-bat in the first inning the biggest of the game. Coco Crisp opened the game with a double and with two out Yoenis Cespedes walked.
"If he gets out of that, then the momentum can shift the other way," Melvin said.
Norris made sure the momentum was with the A's with his double. Gentry tripled and scored in the second on the first of three RBIs from Josh Reddick. The third inning saw Norris double another run home for his third RBI, and there was no looking back.
"Perez is a great ground ball pitcher," Norris said. "The key for us was to lay off all the low pitches, then make him elevate. When he did, we got our base hits. He's a guy who lives down in the zone." Kazmir's win, following the three-hit shutout tossed by Sonny Gray Monday, gets the A's two-thirds of the way to even against the Rangers, who swept the A's in Oakland last week. The A's can return the favor with a win behind starter Jesse Chavez on Wednesday.
A's (Jesse Chavez 1-0) at Texas (Robbie Ross 1-1), 5:05 p.m. CSN-Plus