Rays fall back into wild-card tie as Hellickson struggles

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has no illusions about the AL wild-card race ending before the final days of the regular season.

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus hit home runs and drove in three runs each and the Texas Rangers snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night that pulled them even with Tampa Bay at the top of the AL wild-card race.

“I’m not anticipating us just to go out there and be Minnesota Fats (and run the table),” Maddon said. “I don’t see it, so it’s just going to be back and forth. You’ve got to deal with it. Keep coming and prepare for it.”

Six teams are still in contention for the wild-card spots.

The Rangers, who held the No. 1 wild-card spot or the AL West lead for most of the summer, won for only the fourth time in 17 games.

“We just kept grinding and good things began to happen for us,” Texas manager Ron Washington said.

Kinsler hit Jeremy Hellickson’s first pitch for his 12th home run, breaking a streak of seven homerless games for the Rangers, their longest in 23 years. The 1-0 lead marked the first time Texas has led in a game since its last victory, on Sept. 8.

The Rays had won the opener of the four-game series Monday, 6-2, behind eight strong innings by Alex Cobb.

“It’s really frustrating to go out there and do that after the big win we had last night, and the way Cobb threw,” Hellickson said. “You want to go out and do the same thing. It’s very frustrating, but at the same time you’ve got to move on.”

Kinsler added a two-run single in the Rangers’ four-run third, giving him three RBIs on the first two pitches he saw from Hellickson (11-9). Andrus followed with his third home run of the season to put the Rangers up 5-0.

Hellickson, who is 1-6 in his last nine starts, gave up five earned runs in 2 2-3 innings.

“It’s been an inconsistent year, but at the same time you can’t dwell on that and think about that,” Hellickson said. “This one is over.”

Alexi Ogando (7-4) won in his first start since Aug. 13, giving up two hits in five innings. He had made four relief appearances after spending three weeks on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

“Ogando was really good,” Maddon said. “I’ve got to give him credit, man. This guy has not started in a while, pitched on a limited basis coming into tonight’s game. But it was very, very good. He was really into it. We just could not mount any kind of an attack.”

Ogando retired the first seven Rays he faced, the last four with strikeouts, before Jose Lobaton homered in the third inning.

Leonys Martin doubled twice and added a ninth-inning home run, his eighth of the season. Mitch Moreland had two doubles for the Rangers, who have won 16 of their last 24 road games.

Rookie Wil Myers had two of Tampa Bay’s four hits.

NOTES: Kinsler has led off 29 games with a home run, two this season. … Rangers OF Nelson Cruz, who is suspended for the rest of the regular season, began workouts at the team’s training facility in Arizona. … The Rays promoted 32-year-old outfielder Freddy Guzman and added him to the active roster. Guzman has played in 47 major league games, most recently in 2009 with the New York Yankees. … . RHP Jesse Crain, who has been on the DL with a right shoulder strain since the Rays acquired him from the Chicago White Sox on July 29, could be activated as early as Wednesday. … The Rays announced a renewal of their relationship with Montgomery, their Double-A affiliate. They will play an exhibition game on March 29 at Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium.