Splitting a four-game series felt pretty good to the Texas Rangers.
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"You can see how everything’s starting to fall on track," said Elvis Andrus, who drove in three runs in the 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night. "Everybody’s feeling better, relaxed out there. Our pitching’s doing great … that’s what we’re looking for."
The split left the Rangers tied with the Rays for the AL’s top wild-card spot. The Rangers won the season series with the Rays 4-3, earning home-field advantage should the teams finish in a tie for the two wild-card spots. They each have 10 games left.
The Cleveland Indians pulled within a half-game of the leaders by beating Houston 2-1 in 11 innings.
Andrus said Thursday’s game was a must-win for Texas, which carried a seven-game losing streak into the series.
"Yesterday (a 4-3 loss in 12 innings) was a tough loss, so to come back today and win the way we did, that was huge," he said.
Yu Darvish won for the first time in seven starts since Aug. 12, surviving a 40-pitch first inning in which he hit a batter and walked three, falling behind 2-0. Darvish (13-9) made it through five innings despite walking six, throwing 109 pitches.
"When he had to make a pitch, he made a pitch," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Sometimes you have to figure out ways to get things done when you’re not at your very best or even at your minimal, and he did that tonight."
Mitch Moreland, Andrus and Alex Rios homered off Matt Moore in the third inning to put the Rangers ahead to stay. Andrus drove in two runs with an infield single in the fourth, stretching the lead to 6-2.
Craig Gentry had four of the Rangers’ 16 hits and three of their five stolen bases, the most against the Rays this season.
"The way we ran the bases tonight, the at-bats we put together, when we start doing that throughout the lineup, that’s when we play good baseball," Washington said. "In the four games here, we played good baseball and we won two games."
Andrus’ homer was his second of the series and fourth of the season, all since Aug. 4. Moreland, the only left-handed hitter in the Texas lineup, hit his 23nd long ball and Rios his 17th. Geovany Soto added his eighth home run, off Cesar Ramos in the ninth.
The Rangers were down 2-1 when Moreland led off the third with long drive to left-center. Following Ian Kinsler’s fly out to the warning track in left, Andrus and Rios hit consecutive home runs to left.
"That was a big inning for us all the way around," Moreland said. "We hit two more after that, so three home runs in one inning definitely swung the momentum in our favor.
"Darvish had to fight tonight. He kept us there and we made the most of it."
Moore (15-4) gave up six runs, five earned, while striking out six in four innings. He served up three homers in a game for the first time this season after giving up only four in his 16 preceding starts.
"There’s someone responsible for the damage and I’m that person," Moore said. "Going into today I had a chance to keep us on top of the leader board as far as the wild card goes. It’s frustrating tonight, but we’re back at them tomorrow."
NOTES: Tim Beckham, the Rays’ first overall draft pick in 2008, singled as a pinch-hitter in his major league debut. … Texas OF Nelson Cruz (suspension) has started playing games with the Rangers’ instructional league team in Arizona. … Tampa Bay sent Class-A LHP Matthew Spann to Washington as the player to be named in an Aug. 23 trade in which the Rays obtained OF David DeJesus. … Rays rookie OF Wil Myers got his first haircut since spring training, which garnered a lot of attention in the clubhouse. "He told me he paid $14 for it, and that’s $14 too much," pitcher David Price said. . . . Rays RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) threw 26 pitches in an instructional league game. The Rays expect to activate him soon.