OAKLAND — Austin Allen took 78 big league at bats until he could connect for his first big league home run. In his 79th, despite riding an 0-for-11 streak, Allen’s plan remained the same: just hit the ball hard.

Finally, his swing on a 2-0 95 mph fastball from Texas Rangers reliever Ian Gibaut slipped over the right field fence. He hit it hard, all right: 104 mph off the bat.

“I didn’t even feel it hit the bat,” Allen said. “I heard it.”

Relief spilled off him as the 26-year-old rounded the bases, a feeling that turned quickly to elation as he returned to the dugout to greet his teammates. The go-ahead home run ushered in the A’s 6-4 win over the Rangers Wednesday night. They’ve won five straight, moving to 8-4 on the season.

“Being traded over here, getting close with this group of guys has been unbelievable,” Allen said. “These guys have helped me out every single day.”

Though it took 79 at bats to see it in motion, the A’s saw Allen’s power potential when they acquired the left-handed catcher in the Jurickson Profar trade with the San Diego Padres this offseason.

The A’s chose Allen to join the 30-man roster this year over high catching prospect Jonah Heim — a switch-hitting, defensively talented catcher with eye-opening development offensively — because they saw a power swing, some juice from a side of the plate in which Matt Olson provided the only source of power.

Speaking of Matt Olson: He grew out a mustache.

Wednesday, he broke out of a .094 slump he’d fallen in since his walk-off grand slam on opening night by mashing two home runs. The first, a two-run blast that erased an early one-run deficit. The second, a solo homer that provided a little breathing room in the eighth following Allen’s two-run one.

Ramón Laureano’s third home run, a solo blast, chipped at a new Rangers lead, completing a four home run night for the A’s.

Sean Manaea vs. Second time through the lineup

Get a lineup in front of Sean Manaea, and he’ll mow through it like a knife through butter the first time through. That same lineup up a second time? Manaea hasn’t been able to cut to the bottom.

Wednesday, the Rangers tagged Manaea for three runs in the fourth inning. It followed a five strikeout, one-run first three innings for the A’s left-handed starter.

Here’s a breakdown of Manaea’s innings in his three starts against the Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners and Rangers.

Innings one-through-three: One run, six hits, 10 strikeouts.

Innings four-through-five: Nine runs, 15 hits, one strikeout.

That one run earned over the first three innings came on Manaea’s very first pitch Wednesday, a lazy fastball to Shin-Soo Choo that leaked over the dish. He struck out five batters in 2.2 clean innings after that.

Then, he tumbled into the fourth inning. Todd Frazier singled to lead off, followed by a Robinson Chirinos walk — Manaea’s first walk allowed this season.

Nick Solak and Isiah Kiner Falefa’s back-to-back hits gave the Rangers a lead. One sac fly later and Manaea was pulled after just 3.1 innings.

Manager Bob Melvin nor Manaea could identify a cause for the second-time-through curse. Neither seem to see it as a cause for concern. Each disaster fourth inning met Manaea with a bit of opposing hitters’ luck: Solak’s double just hit chalk, Kiner Falefa’s RBI barely escaped Matt Chapman’s bare-handed out attempt.

He missed a few spots, and the Rangers’ swings found grass.

“Not really that worried about it,” Manaea said. “There’s some other things I should be worried about.”

Manaea couldn’t elaborate on what exactly he was concerned about. His fastball velocity registered at 92 mph in the first inning before it tapered into the high-80s territory again.

“Just his location, quit on him a little bit,” Melvin said. “He’s had some trouble getting through that fourth, at some point he will.”

Burch Smith delivers again

Burch Smith has quietly been one of the most dominant relievers out of the A’s bullpen. He made his third appearance Wednesday to relieve Manaea in the fourth.

He went on to retire all 10 batters he faced using just 32 pitches. What’s the secret sauce? His mid-90s fastball with the kind of spin rate that makes that ball rise. A changeup that plays well off it, too.

“Burch is nasty,” Allen said.

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Author: Shayna Rubin