Coming off their second big offensive performance in the series, the host Rangers look to take the four-game set from AL West-leading A's on Thursday.
The Rangers (40-32) totaled eight runs and averaged 7.2 hits during a season-high six-game losing streak before winning 8-7 in Monday's series opener with the A's (43-31). After being held to three hits in Tuesday's 6-2 defeat, Texas pounded out 14 to cut Oakland's division lead to two games."I think we can go out there now and be competitive," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "I think we got the monkey off our back as far as having a total drought offensively. I think some guys are starting do some things all throughout the lineup."We start getting more consistent, then we'll get back to playing our baseball."
Cruz is 6 for 12 with two homers and six RBIs in the series after going 3 for 20 with six strikeouts in the first six games versus Oakland this season.
Murphy was 7 for 50 (.140) in his previous 14 games before he broke out Wednesday.
The Rangers hope to fare better than they did last month against scheduled Oakland starter A.J. Griffin (5-6, 3.93 ERA). The right-hander yielded a home run and struck out eight without a walk in seven innings of a 5-1 victory May 13 to improve to 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA in three starts versus Texas.
Griffin, however, has allowed four runs in four of his last five starts. He served up a grand slam to 41-year-old catcher Henry Blanco in a 4-0 loss to Seattle on Saturday to fall to 0-3 with a 4.15 ERA in his last four outings."I was just trying for weak contact and Henry was looking for a well-placed fastball and he hit it," Griffin said. "I watched the video and the pitch went right where (catcher John) Jaso set up, up and in. At the end of the day it's four runs on one pitch."
Chris Young hit a three-run homer and had two of the six hits Wednesday for the A's, who have dropped four of six. Young is batting .192, but is 6 for his last 12 with two home runs and four RBIs.
Young is 0 for 6 with four strikeouts against Texas' Josh Lindblom (0-2, 5.94), who makes his fourth start this season after he allowed four runs on two homers in six innings of a 6-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday.
"Those two pitches, that's been the Achilles' heel of our pitching staff lately," Washington told the Rangers' official website. "One or two pitches cost us."
The right-hander gave four runs and seven hits, including a homer to Seth Smith , over 4 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss to the A's on May 20.
|June 11, 2013||Yoenis Cespedes||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|May 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||15-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|May 07, 2013||Josh Reddick||15-Day DL||Sprained right wrist|
|May 06, 2013||Jarrod Parker||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained neck|
|May 01, 2013||Brett Anderson||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|May 01, 2013||Brett Anderson||60-Day DL||Right foot stress fracture|
|June 13, 2013||Jeff Baker||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|June 07, 2013||Nelson Cruz||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 07, 2013||Michael Kirkman||60-Day DL||Cutaneous lymphoma in right triceps|
|June 06, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 05, 2013||Mitch Moreland||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- When the ball caromed away from Texas Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry , he quickly recovered to get it and throw to shortstop Elvis Andrus . The game was over after a perfect relay to the plate.
Oakland's Josh Donaldson was tagged out by catcher A.J. Pierzynski, preserving the Rangers' series-clinching 4-3 victory over the AL West-leading Athletics on Thursday.
Donaldson, who reached on a two-out single off closer Joe Nathan , was trying to score from first on Seth Smith 's fast-sinking ball that that short-hopped the charging Gentry.
"Little did we know, fortunately, that ended up being a blessing," Nathan said.
"I was hoping that Gentry had enough foot speed to catch it, but it sunk on him, but he kept it almost in front of him, not too far," manager Ron Washington said. "If he didn't hit Elvis with the relay perfectly, I don't think we would have been able to pull that play off."
Ian Kinsler put the Rangers ahead for the first time with his two-out single in the seventh.
Texas pulled within a game of the Athletics by winning three times in the four-game set. The division's top two teams don't play again until the first weekend of August.
"Any win right now is special, especially against a good team like the A's, especially to win the series," Andrus said. "They're really aggressive on the bases. ... I just want to get the ball quick, so I can make a throw and make that guy stop."
Kinsler came to the plate in the seventh right after Leonys Martin 's hustling infield single, getting to first base ahead of Sean Doolittle (3-2) when the pitcher was taking the toss from first baseman Brandon Moss . That loaded the bases with two outs, and Kinsler hit a full-count pitch through the middle of the infield.
Donaldson and Smith singled in the ninth after Nathan struck out the first two hitters.
When Donaldson saw the ball get away from Gentry, who replaced Martin defensively in center to start the ninth. Donaldson never slowed down rounding third base even as coach Mike Gallego signaled him to stop after initially waving him home.
"As soon as I saw it hit his chest, I was gone," Donaldson said. "It took a perfect throw to get me. It sucks to lose a game that way, but you take that chance. It was frustrating because it was the worst outcome we could have had."
Tanner Scheppers (5-0), the fourth reliever after starter Josh Lindblom , worked 1 2-3 scoreless innings before Nathan struck out two in the ninth and got his 22nd save in 23 chances.
Oakland, which went from a seven-game deficit in mid-May to starting this series with a season-high three-game division lead, lost for the fifth time in seven games.
"That was as frustrating as any loss we've had," manager Bob Melvin said. "They played hard on every single pitch and every single out, but it seemed everything that could go wrong did go wrong."
Texas finished 4-7 on its season-long 11-game homestand.
David Murphy led off the Texas seventh with a double, but was thrown out at third after Robinson Chirinos ' bunt back to pitcher Ryan Cook , who was then relieved by Doolittle. Pierzynski had a pinch-hit single and Jurickson Profar a foul popout before Martin kept the inning alive.
The A's went up 3-2 in the top of the seventh when Jed Lowrie had a leadoff single and eventually scored on an error by Andrus, who went to his right to make a nice grab on Donaldson's grounder. Andrus threw to third, but the ball ricocheted off the leg of the sliding Lowrie, who then got up and ran home.
That was all the A's got in the seventh, when they left the bases loaded for the second inning in a row. They left 13 runners on base.
Oakland went ahead 2-1 in the sixth when pinch-hitter Chris Young drew a bases-loaded walk. Robbie Ross , the fourth pitcher in the inning, then came on and got three straight outs.
Lowrie was in a 7-for-48 slide before three hits Thursday. He had an RBI single in the fifth, but grounded into a double play to end the eighth.
Geovany Soto , catching until Pierzynski hit for him in the seventh, led off the Rangers fifth with a tying solo homer to straightaway center. It looked like Coco Crisp had a chance to make a homer-stealing grab, but ran into the 8-foot wall about the same time he was reaching up to try to make the catch.
Andrus had a sacrifice fly for Texas in the sixth.
Notes: The Rangers said after the game they would option Lindblom to Triple-A Round Rock on Friday, when 1B Mitch Moreland will be activated from the disabled list. .. Rangers RF Nelson Cruz made a leaping catch and held on when he hit in midair the inverted wall in front of the Texas bullpen in the eighth. ... Kinsler got his 161st career stolen base after his go-ahead single, matching Bump Wills for the most in Rangers history. ... In their seven previous plate appearances before Thursday with the bases loaded, the A's had been 4 for 4 with a homer, a walk and two sacrifice flies.