The Oakland Athletics aren't concerned with just reaching the playoffs when an AL West title is still within their grasp.
The A's look to conclude this four-game series with a third straight win against the Rangers in Arlington on Thursday.
Oakland (88-67) is two games ahead of Los Angeles for the AL's second wild-card spot, as it tries to return to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
The A's, however, want more.
"A lot of people want to say we can get the wild card. We're trying to still win this division. ... It's definitely possible," said right fielder Josh Reddick .
Buoyed by baseball's best record since the start of July at 51-25, Oakland is three games back of West-leading Texas (91-64) with seven games left in the regular season. Four of those meetings will pit the division rivals against each other.
The A's got the upper hand in the season series Wednesday, beating the Rangers 9-3 for their eighth win in 15 meetings.
"We lost a tough one the first night (in Texas). For me, it was even more important to come back and win the next day and follow it up with a good performance (Wednesday)," manager Bob Melvin said. "Certainly it would be nice to win (Thursday), but at this point, these two games I think were big for us."
After concluding this series, Oakland returns home for three games against last-place Seattle before hosting Texas in the final series of the regular season.
The Rangers open a three-game set versus the visiting Angels on Friday.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing or what other teams are doing," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre told the team's official website. "We just have to win games. We just have to do what we have to do to win games."
Harrison (17-10, 3.17 ERA) will try to help Texas reduce its magic number for a third consecutive division title from five to three.
"It's definitely a start I want to win," Harrison said. "Put the team in a position to win and cut that magic number. We'd like to clinch this thing on the homestand."
The left-hander has won two of his last three starts behind a 1.61 ERA, and he can't be blamed for losing Saturday. He tossed a seven-hit, eight-inning complete game in a 1-0 defeat at Seattle.
Harrison is 3-0 with a 2.48 ERA in six games - four starts - at home against the A's, winning the most recent meeting there 4-3 on June 29. He allowed two runs with seven strikeouts in eight innings.
This time, he'll have to contend with a red-hot Stephen Drew , who is batting .360 in his last 11 games. The shortstop's three homers in that stretch match his total from the previous 61 contests with Arizona and Oakland.
Drew is 13 for 27 (.481) in six career meetings with Texas, going 2 for 3 versus Harrison.
Oakland will send Travis Blackley (5-3, 3.48) to the mound hoping he can improve his recent performances as a starter.
The southpaw is 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA over his past nine appearances, and 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA in four starts during that stretch.
Blackley struggled again Saturday, allowing four runs with three walks in two innings of an extra-inning loss at New York.
He's 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts against the Rangers this year, but that lone victory came in Arlington on July 1. He yielded one run in seven innings of a 3-1 win.
|September 25, 2012||Coco Crisp||Day-to-Day||Eye infections|
|September 19, 2012||Brett Anderson||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right oblique|
|September 05, 2012||Brandon McCarthy||Day-to-Day||Left game - head injury|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||60-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|September 02, 2012||Brandon Inge||Day-to-Day||Dislocated right shoulder|
|August 18, 2012||Jordan Norberto||15-Day DL||Left shoulder tendinitis|
|September 25, 2012||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Neck stiffness|
|September 23, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sinus problems|
|September 18, 2012||Tanner Scheppers||Day-to-Day||Left game - Bruised right knee|
|September 13, 2012||Mike Olt||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, right foot|
|September 13, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sore left knee|
|September 12, 2012||Adrian Beltre||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left shoulder|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Ian Kinsler and the Texas Rangers moved closer to another AL West title with a split.
Now they can wrap up the division championship at home even before facing the chasing Athletics again next week in Oakland.
Kinsler hit a leadoff homer to start a five-run first inning, Matt Harrison got his 18th victory and the two-time defending American League champions held on for a 9-7 victory Thursday. By splitting the four-game series, the Rangers maintained their four-game lead over the second-place A's with six to play.
"Never doubted it," manager Ron Washington said of his team's response after losing consecutive games at home. "The worst we were looking for was a split. They can also play, and we got what we wanted."
Texas' magic number is three to clinch its third straight division crown, heading into a weekend series at home against the Los Angeles Angels . One win would lock up a playoff berth for the Rangers.
Oakland hosts last-place Seattle this weekend.
Kinsler's 19th homer was his major league-best seventh leadoff shot this season. The Rangers had four consecutive two-out hits, capped by Mike Napoli 's two-run homer off Travis Blackley (5-4).
That came after the A's (88-68) had their own five-run first inning in a 9-3 win Wednesday night, after winning in 10 innings the night before that.
Texas (92-64) scored in each of the first four innings against three different pitchers, matching Oakland run-for-run in the second through the fourth until the A's hit three solo homers in the eighth off Mike Adams .
"We constantly kept the momentum in our favor, if you don't look at the three home runs in the eighth. We responded to them," Kinsler said. "We want to be a team that's tough to put away."
Josh Reddick homered twice for the A's, who wrapped up a 20-game stretch of six series in six cities and won 12 times. They finish the regular season at home, with a three-game weekend series against Seattle before hosting the Rangers starting Monday night.
""We don't have any negative thoughts right now," Reddick said. "It's going to be good to go home. We've been on the road for a month. ... We can't rely on LA to lose and we can't rely on Texas to fall back. We know we're just not going to back down."
The A's, whose 51-26 record since the start of July is best in the majors, were two games ahead of the Angels.
Harrison (18-10) went six innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, to become the Rangers' first 18-game winner since Kenny Rogers in 2004.
The All-Star left-hander is scheduled to start once more in the regular season, with a chance for the most wins since Rick Helling 's 20 in 1998.
"Matt wasn't at his best, but he was able to fight through a lot of things and he was able to make pitches when he had to," Washington said.
"It was a battle for me all day," Harrison said. "All credit goes to the offense. They scored nine runs, kept us on top of the game."
Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 36th save in 38 chances.
Reddick had one of Oakland's homers in the eighth off reliever Mike Adams . Jonny Gomes had three hits, including an RBI double.
Blackley lasted only one inning, allowing five runs and five hits with a wild pitch.
"I felt pretty good when I threw in the bullpen before the game. When I get out there, the ball is just not going where I want it," Blackley said. "I'm just not getting it down. I'm not throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes and falling behind. Even when my pitches did get down, they found holes."
Kinsler extended his own franchise record with his 27th career leadoff homer. Adrian Beltre , Nelson Cruz and Michael Young then had two-out singles before Napoli's opposite-field homer to right-center.
Josh Hamilton got his 125th RBI with a double in the Texas second, an inning before Napoli's run-scoring single made it 7-2.
Reddick, who snapped a season-worst 0-for-30 slump with singles in his last two at-bats Wednesday night, made it three hits in a row when he pulled a pitch into the second deck of seats in right field in the second inning for his 30th homer of the season.
Derek Norris hit a two-run homer in the fourth for Oakland to make it 7-4. Yoenis Cespedes led off the eighth with his 22nd homer and Brandon Moss hit his 20th before Reddick homered again.
"We didn't look good early. But to battle back like that, we would have had a chance to tie the game if we got a runner on base in the ninth," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That's testament to how good they played."
NOTES: Texas and Oakland have split their 16 games this season. ... A's rookie A.J. Griffin (6-1) starts the series opener against Seattle. ... Ryan Dempster , 7-2 for Texas since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 31, starts against Angels ace Jered Weaver (19-4). ... Oakland batters struck out seven times, extending the American League season record the A's set Wednesday night to 1,340 with six games to play. ... Napoli was 0 for 11 with six strikeouts in the series before his homer.