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With stakes raised, Rangers deliver big win

Mike Napoli capped off a five-run first inning for Texas as they extended their lead in the AL West.

ARLINGTON, Texas — If Thursday’s game was the biggest of the season for the Texas Rangers, fans can rest easy in knowing how their team reacts in those situations.


The five runs Texas scored in the bottom of the first against Oakland took care of that.


Texas used the five runs as a springboard for a big offensive game as the Rangers held off the slugging A’s 9-7.


While the Rangers didn’t win the four-game series against Oakland, they did manage a split after dropping the middle two games. That’s good enough as the Rangers have time (just six games) and an American League West lead (four games) on their side in their bid for a third consecutive division title.


The Texas victory, coupled with the Los Angeles loss to Seattle, assured the Rangers of at least 163 games this season because neither the Angels nor Tampa Bay can win more than the 92 victories the Rangers already have.


But the postseason wasn’t on the mind of the Rangers Thursday. Getting back on track against the closest West threat was.


“The most important thing about today’s game was us responding to them,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who set the tone with his seventh leadoff homer of the season in the bottom of the first. “We scored the five in the first and they kept trying to fight their way back in and we were able to respond to them the next three innings. When you’re playing an important game like this, it’s all about momentum. We were able to keep the momentum on our side.”


Texas manager Ron Washington said before the game that if the Rangers got a well-pitched game, they would beat the A’s. Left-hander Matt Harrison (18-10) wasn’t at his best, but he did have the best start of any Texas pitcher in the series. He allowed four runs in six innings but kept Oakland from putting together the big inning.


Harrison is the first 18-game winner for Texas since Kenny Rogers in 2004 and matched Rogers for the most wins in a season by a left-hander. His start was wobbly but was picturesque after the Texas starters in the first three games totaled 7 2/3 innings pitched.


“Definitely I had to get deep in the game,” Harrison said. “We used the bullpen a lot the last couple of days and I was just trying to do anything I can to get us deep in the game. I was able to get through six. I was able to make some pitches when I needed to and get key outs.”


The early offensive help made his job easier. Texas had its biggest first inning since May 25 and forced Oakland to go to its bullpen after just one frame.


Kinsler’s homer got the offense going and Michael Young delivered a key two-run single to make it 3-0. Mike Napoli added a homer over the Texas bullpen in right-center and all was right with the Texas offense.


Oakland scored in the second, third and fourth innings against Harrison but the offense backed him up by matching runs in each of the four frames. Texas had scored 10 runs in the first three games of the series and 21 hits. Thursday they matched their highest-run output for the month and tallied 14 hits.


They ended up needed just about every one as Oakland made a late push by hitting three homers of Mike Adams in the eighth inning. Koji Uehara blunted the rally and Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth to allow the Rangers to salvage the split.


Was it the ideal series for the Rangers? No. But Thursday’s win made it good enough.


“They believe in each other and today Kinsler and Elvis (Andrus) came out and set the tone early,” Washington said. “We didn’t shut it down. We just kept putting runs on the board until they were able to put up innings where we couldn’t put runs on the board. And that was important. But we know we can play. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy when those guys came in here. As I said, the worst that we were looking for was a split. They can play also.”


An Oakland win would have dropped the lead in the West to two games. While that might have been concerning to some outside the clubhouse, that wasn’t the feeling among the Rangers.


“We’re really good at making sure we focus on today’s game,” said Young, whose two-run single in the first tripled his RBI total from the previous 12 games. “The last two games weren’t even on our minds. We know what it means to go out there and win. We know how to win. We know how to play in big games.”


If Thursday’s game was the biggest of the season for the Texas Rangers, fans can rest easy in knowing how their team reacts in those situations.


The five runs Texas scored in the bottom of the first against Oakland took care of that.

Texas used the five runs as a springboard for a big offensive game as the Rangers held off the slugging A’s 9-7.


While the Rangers didn’t win the four-game series against Oakland, they did manage a split after dropping the middle two games. That’s good enough as the Rangers have time (just six games) and an American League West lead (four games) on their side in their bid for a third consecutive division title.


The Texas victory, coupled with the Los Angeles loss to Seattle, assured the Rangers of at least 163 games this season because neither the Angels nor Tampa Bay can win more than the 92 victories the Rangers already have.


But the postseason wasn’t on the mind of the Rangers Thursday. Getting back on track against the closest West threat was.


“The most important thing about today’s game was us responding to them,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler, who set the tone with his seventh leadoff homer of the season in the bottom of the first. “We scored the five in the first and they kept trying to fight their way back in and we were able to respond to them the next three innings. When you’re playing an important game like this, it’s all about momentum. We were able to keep the momentum on our side.”


Texas manager Ron Washington said before the game that if the Rangers got a well-pitched game, they would beat the A’s. Left-hander Matt Harrison (18-10) wasn’t at his best, but he did have the best start of any Texas pitcher in the series. He allowed four runs in six innings but kept Oakland from putting together the big inning.


Harrison is the first 18-game winner for Texas since Kenny Rogers in 2004 and matched Rogers for the most wins in a season by a left-hander. His start was wobbly but was picturesque after the Texas starters in the first three games totaled 7 2/3 innings pitched.


“Definitely I had to get deep in the game,” Harrison said. “We used the bullpen a lot the last couple of days and I was just trying to do anything I can to get us deep in the game. I was able to get through six. I was able to make some pitches when I needed to and get key outs.”


The early offensive help made his job easier. Texas had its biggest first inning since May 25 and forced Oakland to go to its bullpen after just one frame.


Kinsler’s homer got the offense going and Michael Young delivered a key two-run single to make it 3-0. Mike Napoli added a homer over the Texas bullpen in right-center and all was right with the Texas offense.


Oakland scored in the second, third and fourth innings against Harrison but the offense backed him up by matching runs in each of the four frames. Texas had scored 10 runs in the first three games of the series and 21 hits. Thursday they matched their highest-run output for the month and tallied 14 hits.


They ended up needed just about every one as Oakland made a late push by hitting three homers of Mike Adams in the eighth inning. Koji Uehara blunted the rally and Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth to allow the Rangers to salvage the split.


Was it the ideal series for the Rangers? No. But Thursday’s win made it good enough.


“They believe in each other and today Kinsler and Elvis (Andrus) came out and set the tone early,” Washington said. “We didn’t shut it down. We just kept putting runs on the board until they were able to put up innings where we couldn’t put runs on the board. And that was important. But we know we can play. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy when those guys came in here. As I said, the worst that we were looking for was a split. They can play also.”


An Oakland win would have dropped the lead in the West to two games. While that might have been concerning to some outside the clubhouse, that wasn’t the feeling among the Rangers.


“We’re really good at making sure we focus on today’s game,” said Young, whose two-run single in the first tripled his RBI total from the previous 12 games. “The last two games weren’t even on our minds. We know what it means to go out there and win. We know how to win. We know how to play in big games.”