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Rangers split with Rays, tie for wild-card lead

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Texas Rangers have 10 games remaining and a share of the American League wild-card lead.

After a four-game split with the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Ron Washington is beginning to feel a lot better about things.

"It looked like we started putting it back together," Washington said Thursday after an 8-2 win over Tampa Bay pulled the Rangers into the tie with the Rays. "The last four games here we played pretty good baseball."

The Rangers looked more like a potentially dangerous playoff team Thursday than one that entered the series losers of seven in a row. They pounded Rays starter Matt Moore, who had shut them down in two previous outings, hit four home runs, turned three double plays, stole five bases, threw out two attempted base-stealers and iced the game by scoring two runs on an infield single.

"That's the way we play," Washington said.

Texas (83-69) and Tampa Bay (83-69) will attempt to fend off the Cleveland Indians (83-70) and Baltimore Orioles (81-71) in one of the few remaining playoff battles. The top wild-card team will host a one-game playoff against the second wild-card team.

Texas starter Yu Darvish (13-9) was wild in his five-inning outing -- effectively so, Washington said -- but good enough after losing consecutive 1-0 decisions and four starts overall. Darvish issued six walks, which tied a season high. He allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out four.

"Darvish is wonderful, but he was totally off his game tonight with six walks, and to not take advantage of that, that was our fault," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Double plays have just been our bane lately. We're a double-play machine at times, and it's really taken us out of different moments."

Texas out-hit the Rays 16-7.

Texas hammered three solo homers in third inning to take a 4-2 lead against Moore (15-4).

"The middle of their lineup was just giving me a hard time," Moore said. "I was in some decent counts. Those home runs there, those are pretty hard to work around."

Mitch Moreland, the lone left-hander in the lineup against the southpaw Moore, led off with his 22nd homer of the season, a blast to left. Elvis Andrus (No. 4) and Alex Rios (No. 17) went back-to-back with one out.

"The three home runs in the inning, that definitely swung the momentum for us," Moreland said.

The Rangers used aggressive baserunning 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 reached on an Escobar error and took second on a 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 OF Wil Myers did not play. ... Rays rookie SS Tim Beckham, the top selection in the 2008 draft, became the first player taken tops overall to single in his first major league plate appearance since Phil Nevin in 1995. Beckham collected his hit as an eighth-inning pinch hitter ... Maddon used a lineup of four lefties and two switch hitters. The right-handed-hitting Longoria was the DH, and Johnson played third. ... Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi joined the team from Triple-A Durham. He will pitch in long relief. ... 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, and a 1-for-4 night left his average at .297. ... Rangers C Geovany Soto threw out two runners in the second inning, including 2B 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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