ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Texas Rangers were short on fortuitous breaks and pleasant surprises during a seven-game losing streak.
They got a little bit of both in hammering the Tampa Bay Rays 7-1 Tuesday at Tropicana Field, and the reward was a share of the top of the American League wild-card standings in a race that gets wilder by the day. The victory ended Texas' lengthy skid.
Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando, in his first start since coming off the disabled list Sept. 3, allowed a run on two hits in five innings and escaped two potential jams. Ogando (7-4) struck out four and walked one.
Texas' ninth-hole hitter, Leonys Martin (3-for-4), missed a hit-and-run sign, failed on a bunt attempt, then ripped a double in the decisive four-run third inning.
"We just kept grinding, and good things began to happen for us," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's what we were waiting for, to get one (win), and then we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Both the Rays and Rangers stand at 82-68 with two games remaining in the series. Tampa Bay lost for just the second time in its past six games.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson (11-9) allowed five runs in less than three innings of work for the second time in his past four starts. His 40 pitches tied the fewest of his career as a starter, and he left the other outing injured.
Hellickson faced 13 batters over 2 2/3 innings. Five reached, and every one of them scored.
Ian Kinsler (2-for-5) and Elvis Andrus (2-for-3) each homered and drove in three runs. Martin homered, doubled twice and scored three runs.
Tampa Bay managed just four hits off Ogando and four relievers.
"Ogando went way out there and did way beyond the call of duty of what we expected," Washington said. "I think he deserves a lot of credit, and it was a team victory."
Texas took a 1-0 lead -- its first in eight games spanning 64 innings -- when Kinsler belted the first pitch of the game for his 12th home run of the season. The Rangers added four runs in the third to chase Hellickson.
"First pitch of the game was not a good fastball," Hellickson said. "I wanted to go down and way, and, you know, it just didn't start off right."
Mitch Moreland led off the third with a walk and took third base on Martin's double that followed the missed sign.
Kinsler hit the next pitch for a two-run single. Andrus then walloped a 2-0 fastball into the left field stands for a 4-0 lead.
Tampa Bay had two hits and scored a run in the bottom of the third but stranded runners on second and third.
The run came on Jose Lobaton's seventh homer of the season, a towering shot tucked inside the right field foul pole that trimmed the Rangers' lead to 4-1. Ogando subsequently allowed a walk to Yunel Escobar and a single by Ben Zobrist but escaped despite a wild pitch, retiring Wil Myers and James Loney to end the threat.
"Ogando was really good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I've got to give him credit. We couldn't mount any kind of attack."
NOTES: Manager Ron Washington told a Dallas radio station that the Rangers' problems this month have made him concerned about his job. Washington said he had not had any conversations with the front office about his job security, and CEO Nolan Ryan told the same ESPN Dallas radio station on Monday that Washington should and would survive the season. ... Rays RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) may be activated Wednesday after a positive session facing hitters Monday. ... SS Tim Beckham, the top overall pick in the 2008 draft, was activated after the game when Triple-A Durham concluded its season. The 23-year-old will be available for the Rays on Wednesday. RHP Jake Odorizzi is expected to be called up Friday. Tampa Bay's top minor league affiliate lost the Triple-A championship game 2-1 to Omaha. ... The Rays selected the contract of OF Freddy Guzman, 32, and added him to the active roster. Guzman has played in 47 major league games, most recently with the New York Yankees in 2009.