OAKLAND, California — This must have felt awfully familiar for the Texas Rangers.
Back in the Bay Area for the first time since a three-game sweep at the end of last season cost them the AL West crown, the first-place Rangers had their momentum stopped by Oakland once again.
Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss hit consecutive home runs in the third inning, A.J. Griffin matched his season high with eight strikeouts and the A's beat the rival Rangers 5-1 to start an important stretch in which the teams play six times in 10 days.
Still, before this three-game series had begun, Rangers manager Ron Washington downplayed anything that happened in this ballpark more than seven months ago.
"We're not in here for any revenge," Washington said. "They beat us, we understand that, but there's nothing we can do about that. ... I'm not coming up in here thinking about what happened in the past. Learn from that, but that certainly isn't fueling us. What's fueling us is we're healthy and we're playing good baseball, that's it."
This marks Texas' first trip to Oakland losing those final three games of the 2012 regular season to give away the division title to the surprising A's, whose latest victory ran their home winning streak in the rivalry to five.
The Rangers had their four-game winning streak snapped, and they haven't won five in a row since June 26-30 last year.
Texas righty Justin Grimm (2-3) was outpitched by Griffin and lost his third straight after receiving an extra day of rest between outings. Grimm gave way to Joseph Ortiz after plunking Daric Barton to begin the sixth. Ortiz immediately allowed Derek Norris' double.
"April was a lot more fun, especially between starts when things are going well," Grimm said. "I have to keep my head up and keep working through it. I have to stay mentally strong when things aren't going well."
Mitch Moreland homered to give the Rangers the lead in the second, then Eric Sogard and John Jaso hit RBI singles for the A's in the bottom half.
Texas had few other chances against Griffin and Co.
The Rangers (24-14) arrived in the Bay Area having won seven of nine and began the day with the best record in the majors, but again ran into their division nemesis.
Last season, Oakland became the first team in major league history to win a division or pennant after trailing by five games with fewer than 10 to play, stunning the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers in game No. 162. The A's trailed by 13 games on June 30.
Griffin faced either the minimum or one more batter in each of his final five innings, helped by a pair of double plays. He improved to 3-0 in four starts against division opponents.
"It's the best start command-wise I've had in the pros, in the major leagues," he said.
The right-hander got a scare when he ducked out of the way of Adrian Beltre's sharp single up the middle leading off the seventh, and the pitcher patted his hand on his pounding heart once back on his feet.
"He was keeping the fastball down and making good pitches," Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "There was nothing more we could do. His breaking ball is really slow and it's not that easy to adjust to so many mph lower than his fastball."
Next, Sean Doolittle came in and struck out the side in order on 12 pitches in the eighth.
For the A's, it hardly mattered that Texas was on the other side after they returned home from a rough 3-7 road trip.
"It was big. It was welcomed," manager Bob Melvin said. "It just felt like we were back in sync."
Griffin (4-3) went seven innings and didn't walk a batter for the first time this season, earning his second victory in six outings since he won back-to-back appearances to start the year.
Cespedes hit an 0-1 pitch just over the center-field wall above leaping Leonys Martin in the third. But the Cuban slugger came out of the game in the top of the fifth with a stomach bug.
Moss struck out on four pitches to start the second after fanning four times on 14 total pitches in a 6-1 loss at Seattle. Then, he connected for his sixth home run with a drive to nearly the same spot as Cespedes moments before.
Moss' homer was the 7,000th in Oakland history. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson hit the first on April 10, 1968.
"I always love coming back to Oakland," said Washington, the longtime A's third base coach. "I've got no over-emotional feelings about three games. Three games. Something's going to happen, you can't play a tie."
NOTES: Rangers RHP Colby Lewis, a former A's prospect who had surgery last July to repair a torn flexor tendon, was examined by team doctor Keith Meister in Texas and diagnosed with mild tendinitis in his triceps. He is scheduled to throw again this weekend in Arlington and pitch his next rehab outing for Double-A Frisco as soon as Monday. ... Announced attendance was just 11,030, a far cry from those lively sellouts to end last season. ... Andrus stole his eighth base in the ninth.