Instead, the Rangers, as they did in getting swept by the Pirates, came up one big hit short. They also had a pivotal call at third base go against them that cut short an exhilarating six-run rally in the eighth.
That call -- which got Alex Rios ejected from the game -- left them still down one run, and that's the way it ended in a 9-8 loss to the A's that dropped the Rangers to 4 1/2 games out of first place with 16 to play.
"It has been tough," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We haven't been getting the wins, but believe me, it has been a lot of fun. We're fighting to the end; we just haven't been able to get the win. That's all you can do is fight to the end. We're really close to clicking and running off a winning streak."
The Rangers still lead the AL Wild Card race despite their 10th loss in their last 13 games. They are one game ahead of the Rays and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Indians. The Rangers used 23 players in this game, including seven pitchers. Matt Garza wasn't one of them, but he was inexplicably thrown out by first-base umpire Joe West in the ninth inning.
"We're not out of it, we've still got fight," manager Ron Washington said. "We're going to come back tomorrow and still fight and we're going to get it right. We never quit. We just didn't win the game."
The Rangers trailed, 9-2, going into bottom of the eighth before scoring six in the inning. Three walks by Athletics relievers helped set it up, but the big hits were a pair of two-out, two-run singles from Andrus and Rios that made it a one-run game. With Rios on first, Adrian Beltre kept the rally alive with a single to left.
Rios tried to go to third on the play and was thrown out by left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"I was just trying to be aggressive getting to third," Rios said. "There are many different ways I can score. We don't have to rely on a base hit. I can score on a passed ball or any situation."
Rios was upset with third-base umpire Andy Fletcher, believing he had beaten the tag. But he ended up getting thrown out of the game.
"I was correct. ... I believe I was safe on that call," Rios said. "That particular part of the game, there are a lot of emotions. We're making a comeback, we're fired up. ... To have a rally killed like that, it is disappointing."
The Rangers had one more chance in the ninth when Robinson Chirinos doubled with two outs against reliever Sean Doolittle. But Jurickson Profar took a called third strike to end the game, and the Rangers suffered their fourth straight loss.
"It was a loss," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Obviously we had a chance to win at the end and came up short. We keep getting in position, but we need to get that hit to put us over the top."
Texas also needs to get its best starting pitchers back on track. Holland gave up a three-run home run to Cespedes on the 11th pitch of the game, and the Rangers spent the rest of the night chasing the Athletics.
Holland gave up six runs on eight hits, a walk and two strikeouts over three-plus innings. He left the game after allowing leadoff singles in the fourth and ended up throwing just 49 pitches. In 120 career starts, this was only the eighth time Holland failed to pitch more than three innings, and only the third time he did not throw at least 50 pitches.
"This was just horrendous," Holland said. "I was missing too much in the plate, I'm up in the zone. I haven't done my job. It's embarrassing. Those guys put up the runs they did today. We should have won."
This was Holland's worst start since he allowed eight runs in 1 2/3 innings on May 30, 2012, in a 21-8 loss to the Mariners. Holland is now 0-3 with an 8.78 ERA in his last three starts, and 1-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 11 starts since the All-Star break. His last victory came on Aug. 4 against the Athletics.
Holland, Yu Darvish and Garza are supposed to be the leaders on a rotation that the Rangers expected to be the strength of the team. That hasn't been the case over the past month. Instead it has been the reverse.
Those three are a combined 1-9 with a 5.00 ERA over their last five starts. The Rangers have won just four of those 15 games, and the one victory was recorded by Garza on Aug. 19 against the Astros.
"I need to do a way better job than that," Holland said. "That was unacceptable. I was prepared. I did all of my homework. And once it came to game time, I didn't do my job. It's flat out that easy."