Dempster had to survive some nervous moments in the middle innings but he turned in a great start to pitch the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Indians at Rangers Ballpark on Wednesday.
Dempster, who was staked to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, is now 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his last five starts and 6-1 with a 4.11 ERA in eight starts since being acquired from the Cubs on July 31.
"In the third, fourth and fifth innings, they were really fighting him," manager Ron Washington said. "But he started hitting his spots and keeping the ball down, where he is effective. He did a great job."
The victory was the Rangers' 17th in their past 24 games and reduced their magic number to win the American League West to 18. With the second-place A's beating the Angels, 4-1, Texas' lead in the division remains at three games.
"Coming down the stretch, we want to make sure we're on top of our game, regardless," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We just need to win every game we can. It doesn't matter what anybody else does, we've got to win games."
Third baseman Adrian Beltre helped build Dempster's lead in the first with a two-run home run. Beltre now has 13 home runs in his last 20 games, but also had to leave the game in the top of the fifth with a strained left shoulder. Mike Olt replaced him at third, but he had to leave the game in the seventh when he aggravated the inflammation in his right heel. Josh Hamilton also exited the game in the eighth with a sore left knee.
Hamilton's injury is not considered serious, but the Rangers are awaiting test results on Beltre and Olt. Washington may have limited options when he fills out his lineup card on Wednesday.
"We'll piece together what we've got and go out and fight with what we have," Washington said. "You can't stop the season. We'll go out there with what we've got and we expect to win."
Dempster allowed two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out eight. He retired the last nine batters he faced, and was also able to navigate some treacherous middle innings by holding the Indians to a 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. He also did not allow an extra-base hit, as the Indians finished with seven singles.
"Sometimes inning-management is just as important as executing pitches," Dempster said.
Hamilton gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead in the third with his 41st home run this season. That's when Dempster started to run into some turbulence.
The Indians loaded the bases in the fourth on singles by Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley and a walk to Russ Canzler. Dempster struck out Lonnie Chisenhall with a terrific 1-2 slider, then got Casey Kotchman to hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Elvis Andrus made a nice stop going to his left and flipped to Kinsler for a force at second. But the throw to first was off the mark and Santana scored the first Indians run.
That also left runners on the corners, but Dempster closed out the inning by striking out Brent Lillibridge.
"Especially in the fourth, they started hitting some ground balls in the right spot," Dempster said. "I just kept trying to make pitches. I was trying to get some ground balls, get a double play and get out of the innings. I was able to make some pitches and get some strikeouts and get out it."
The Rangers got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Michael Young doubled and scored on Soto's sacrifice fly.
The Indians started the fifth with singles by Ezequiel Carrera and Shin-Soo Choo, putting runners at the corners once again. But Dempster got out of that inning by allowing just one run on a one-out sacrifice fly by Santana. Brantley ended the inning with a drive to deep right that Nelson Cruz caught on the warning track.
The Indians did not have another baserunner the rest of the night. Dempster had 88 pitches through five innings but needed just 15 more to retire the side in the sixth and seventh. Koji Uehara then retired the side in order in the eighth and Joe Nathan did so in the ninth for his 33rd save.
"It's that time of year when we've got to win as many games as we can," Young said. "But we're playing well right now. We're pitching well and we're playing good defense. We're playing good ball."