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A's can't gain ground on Rangers with series split

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POSTED September 27, 2012 7:43 p.m.

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Oakland Athletics left Texas for a final stretch at home in the same position, even after two big wins.

Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli homered in the first inning and Matt Harrison got his 18th victory for the AL West-leading Rangers, who earned a split in the four-game series with a 9-7 victory Thursday. Texas maintained its four-game division lead with six to play.

"''We don't have any negative thoughts right now," said Josh Reddick, who homered twice for Oakland. "It's going to be good to go home. We've been on the road for a month. ... We can't rely on L.A. to lose and we can't rely on Texas to fall back. We know we're just not going to back down."

They had a chance to get within two games of the two-time defending American League champion Rangers after winning the previous two nights, but the A's (88-68) instead were in a quick hole in the series finale.

Oakland starter Travis Blackley (5-4) lasted only one inning. Kinsler hit his majors-best seventh leadoff homer, his 19th overall this season, before four consecutive two-out hits capped by Napoli's two-run blast that made it 5-0.

"The balls were in the middle of the plate," manager Bob Melvin said. "They continued to get good swings on him. This was not his best game."

The A's started the week in Texas four games back before losing the opener, when the Rangers scored in the bottom of the ninth. Oakland bounced back by winning in 10 innings Tuesday before a 9-3 victory Wednesday after its own five-run first.

"It would have been great to win three out of four," Reddick said. "But this is better than losing three or even four and not having a chance to win it."

Oakland wrapped up a 20-game stretch winning 12 times during six series in six cities, and its 51-26 record since the start of July is the best in the majors. They finished the regular season at home, with a three-game weekend series against Seattle before hosting the Rangers starting Monday night.

Texas (92-64) is at home this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, who lost to Seattle and were two games behind Oakland for the AL's second wild card.

"We're just going to take it day-to-day, the way we've done it all year," Melvin said. "It's the end of a long trip. Now we go back home for the final six, and we're still in it. ... There were times we could have folded up but we didn't do that, even today."

The Rangers scored in each of the first four innings against three different pitchers, matching Oakland run-for-run until the A's hit three solo homers in the eighth off Mike Adams.

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.

Jonny Gomes had three hits, including an RBI double

Joe Nathan then worked a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 36th save in 38 chances.

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," manager Ron Washington said.

Blackley allowed 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. Napoli added a run-scoring single in the third for a 7-2 lead.

"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," Bob Melvin said. "That's testament to how good they played."

NOTES: Texas and Oakland have split their 16 games this season. ... A's rookie A.J. Griffin (6-1) starts the series opener against Seattle. ... Ryan Dempster, 7-2 for Texas since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 31, starts against Angels ace Jered Weaver (19-4). ... Oakland batters struck out seven times, extending the American League season record the A's set Wednesday night to 1,340 with six games to play.

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