ARLINGTON (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.”
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