Their ability to manufacture runs came up big on Friday night, and so did their bullpen in a 5-3 victory over the Angels at the Ballpark in Arlington. While the Rangers held off the Angels, the Rays lost to the Blue Jays and the Indians won their eighth straight by beating the Twins.
"Hopefully tomorrow will be a wonderful day," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We just have to keep fighting the way we are doing. All we can do is keep winning, hope somebody loses and we get a shot. We just have to stay focused and wait for that opportunity."
The Rangers won without getting an extra-base hit. But they took advantage of seven singles, three stolen bases, six walks and two hit by pitches. Angels starter C.J. Wilson threw all three wild pitches that helped bring home two runs in the third inning and afterward expressed some irritation about the condition of the baseballs used during the game.
The Rangers put all that together to forge a 5-3 lead, and the brilliant work of relievers Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan made it stand up by retiring the last 11 batters they faced.
"They're good," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We got some good arms and some good people. We got guys that know what they're doing and guys that have been in this situation before. They know how to pitch, and they're not afraid of the moment. It's a good feeling to look out there and see those guys coming in sometimes."
Those four have pitched in three of the Rangers' last four games, but manager Ron Washington isn't holding back now.
"We're in that spot where we see the finish line," Nathan said. "We know what's at stake, we know how the bullpen is going to be run, we know how it's going to shake down. We just keep preparing ourselves for it and guys are ready for it."
Wilson, who allowed three runs in six innings, expressed concern some baseballs weren't rubbed up at all, which made them harder to control.
"One out of every four was rubbed and three of every four was basically brand new," Wilson said. "The balls were kind of squirting around. A couple balls got away. If you're a lefty and you hit a lefty with a slider, that's obviously not what you are trying to do right there.
"Are you going to call it a coincidence? It's not a coincidence. Let's be honest."
Wilson, with the score tied at 1, allowed two runs in the third on a combination of a single, walk, two hit by pitches and three wild pitches. That gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead.
"It got crazy," Andrus said. "He was throwing a lot of breaking balls and he couldn't [control] it. It's all about doing everything you can to win a game."
Rangers starter Alexi Ogando gave up a two-run single to Josh Hamilton that tied the game in the fifth. But that was the Angels' last hit of the night. Ogando got out of the fifth by getting Howie Kendrick to hit into a double play, struck out Mark Trumbo to start the sixth and then turned it over to the bullpen.
"Ogando was outstanding," Washington said. "So was the bullpen. They all came in and executed pitches. You have to execute pitches against that lineup. To not give up a hit after the fifth inning, that's quite a feat with the way the Angels are tearing up the baseball."
The Rangers took the lead once Wilson left. Right-hander Juan Gutierrez took over in the seventh and walked Ian Kinsler to lead off the inning. His wild pickoff throw moved Kinsler to second and also allowed Andrus to bunt him to third. The Angels brought the infield in for Alex Rios, who smacked a single through the right side to bring home Kinsler with the go-ahead run.
With Beltre at the plate, Rios stole second. Beltre then struck out, but after left-hander Buddy Boshers came in to pitch, Pierzynski hit a grounder up the middle. Erick Aybar, the Angels' shortstop, fielded the ball on the grass behind second but his throw to first was high. Pierzynski was safe with an infield single and Rios raced home with another run.
"It's called fighting for your life," Washington said. "We're excited to be where we are. We still have a chance. It would be different if we did, but all you can do is stay focused. We're playing a very good ballclub and we have to keep our game elevated. If not we'll be looking in."