ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Texas Rangers knotted the race for the top American League wild-card spot with Tampa Bay again on Thursday, pounding the Rays 8-2 at Tropicana Field. Texas (83-69), which had lost seven straight before the four-game series began, earned a split and continued one of the few remaining playoff battles with the Rays (83-69), Indians (83-70) and Orioles (81-71). The top wild card team will host a one-game playoff with the second wild-card team. Texas starter Yu Darvish (13-9) was wild but good enough after losing consecutive 1-0 decisions. The Rangers' defense turned two double plays to offset a six walks issued by Darvish, which tied a season high. He allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out four. Texas out-hit the Rays 16-7. Texas hammered three solo homers in third inning to take a 4-2 lead against Rays starter Matt Moore. Mitch Moreland, the lone left-hander in the lineup against the southpaw Moore, led off with a blast to left and Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios went back-to-back with one out. The Rangers used aggressive base running to score twice in the sixth to take a 6-2 lead. Andrus drove in both runs with an infield single. Craig Gentry singled to lead off the inning and Ian Kinsler walked with two outs. Both runners advanced on a double steal and then scored when Andrus beat out a chopper to short after Rays first baseman James Loney made a basket catch of Yunel Escobar's throw instead of reaching for the ball. Moore lasted just four innings, allowing six runs (five earned) and seven hits. He struck out six. Texas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Rios' RBI single that scored Andrus, who had reached on an Escobar error and had taken second on Moore wild pitch. The Rays responded with two runs in the second, exploiting Darvish's wildness. Leadoff hitter David DeJesus was hit by a pitch and Evan Longoria walked with two outs before Loney flicked a run-scoring double down the left-field line. Kelly Johnson walked to load the bases and Desmond Jennings received the third free pass of the 40-pitch inning to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. NOTES: Rays rookie Wil Myers did not start. Manager Joe Maddon used a lineup of four lefties and two switch-hitters. The right-handed-hitting Longoria was the DH and Johnson played third. ... Darvish entered the game as a loser of consecutive 1-0 decisions. No pitcher had ever lost three starts consecutively by that score. Darvish walked two batters in the first inning after walking just two in his previous 14 innings of two starts. ... Rays RH Jake Odorizzi joined the team from Triple-A Durham and will pitch in long relief. ... The Rays entered the game 3-for-36 against Darvish. ... Loney broke an 0-for-9 slide with a first-inning double. He entered the game batting below .300 for the first time since June 22. ... Rangers C Geovany Soto threw out two runners in the second inning, including Ben Zobrist (who is 10-for-12) to end the inning. ... Texas hit consecutive home runs for the third time this season.
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