OAKLAND — Jose Canseco's first look at Gene Garber was rather scary through the first two pitches, both changeups for strikes.
"It's pretty hard to resist swinging when you're down 0-2," Canseco said, but resist he did, and four pitches later he walked to get the game-winning run-batted in Thursday as the Oakland Athletics defeated the Kansas City Royals, 3-2.
The bases were loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when Canseco came to the plate to face Garber, the veteran reliever acquired recently by the Royals from Atlanta.
"When the count went to 3-2, I was zoning in on one area where I thought he'd pitch me. He didn't throw it there and I never even thought of swinging," said Canseco, who watched an outside pitch for ball four.
"If I ever walked with the bases loaded before, it must have been in my last life," added the usually free-swinging power hitter. "But I wasn't even thinking home run this time."
The Athletics, second in the American League West, pulled to within 2 1/2 games of idle Minnesota. The third-place Royals fell 5 1/2 back.
"They're all tough losses this time of year. But there's still tomorrow. I'm not going to dwell on losses," Royals Manager John Wathan said. "We didn't swing the bats very well."
The A's had three hits in the ninth and outhit the Royals, 11-5.
Garber, Kansas City's fourth pitcher of the game, came out of the bullpen to face Canseco. The walk brought pinch-runner Alfredo Griffin home. Canseco got his 99th RBI of the season and his 15th game-winning RBI.
John Davis, 3-2, was the losing pitcher. He left after giving up a one-out, infield single to Mickey Tettleton. Griffin ran for Tettleton and went to second on Terry Steinbach's pinch-single off Jerry Don Gleaton. After Tony Phillips flied out to center, Luis Polonia beat out an infield single to shortstop, loading the bases.
Reliever Eric Plunk, 3-4, got the victory with two hitless innings of work.
Steve Balboni's pinch-hit, two-run homer off Curt Young in the seventh inning had given the Royals a 2-1 lead, but Mark McGwire drove in his 103rd run with an eighth-inning single to tie the game.
In the Oakland eighth, Tony Bernazard drew a walk off starter Danny Jackson, who then was replaced by Davis. Polonia, running for Bernazard, moved to second on a groundout and scored on McGwire's single.
Young had allowed four hits through six innings, and Oakland took a 1-0 lead in the sixth on McGwire's sacrifice fly following singles by Bernazard and Carney Lansford.