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A's

A’s Near Playoff Elimination After Losing To Rangers

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Jack Cust #32 of the Oakland Athletics strikes out in the seventh inning as Bengie Molina #11 of the Texas Rangers looks on during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 24, 2010. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Jack Cust #32 of the Oakland Athletics strikes out in the seventh inning as Bengie Molina #11 of the Texas Rangers looks on during a Major League Baseball game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 24, 2010. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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OAKLAND (AP) — Tommy Hunter pitched effectively into the sixth inning to earn his career-high 13th victory and the Texas Rangers moved a step closer toward winning their first division title in more than a decade by beating the Oakland Athletics 10-3 on Friday night.

Vladimir Guerrero was a triple shy of the cycle and drove in four runs for the Rangers (85-68) who reduced their magic number to two. Texas can clinch the AL West by beating Oakland in either of the final two games of this four-game series.

One night after getting shut out for the second time in three games, the Rangers snapped out of their offensive slump in a big way with 18 hits while Hunter and five relievers combined to handcuff the A’s.

The Rangers held a 10-game lead over Oakland a week ago before dropping four of five. The A’s won four of five, including a 5-0 blanking of Texas on Thursday, to keep things interesting.

Now up by eight games with nine left, the Rangers are within reach of securing their first division title since 1999 after a tough offseason that included manager Ron Washington admitting during spring training to using cocaine once. The franchise also underwent an ownership change in August when Bill Hicks sold the club to an 18-member investment group led by team president Nolan Ryan.

Hunter is a key reason why Texas turned things around.

He scattered six hits over 5 1-3 innings and didn’t allow a runner past second base until the sixth when the A’s scored their first run. Hunter (13-4) struck out four and didn’t walk a batter for the fifth time this season.

Hunter’s 13 wins lead the Rangers.

Guerrero homered to right-center leading off the second against

Oakland starter Bobby Cramer (2-1). It’s only Guerrero’s third home run in September but his 28th this season, his most since hitting 33 in 2006 while with the Los Angeles Angels.

Texas went up 2-0 after Ian Kinsler doubled and scored on Jeff Francoeur’s sharp grounder that glanced off Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington’s glove and rolled into left field. Francoeur, who went 3 for 4, later homered in the seventh and Guerrero added a bases-loaded double to drive in three more to make it 7-1.

Oakland scored on Pennington’s RBI double in the seventh and loaded the bases with one out against reliever Darren Oliver before Kurt Suzuki fouled out and Jack Cust grounded out to end the threat.

Bengie Molina and Michael Young each had RBI doubles in the eighth for Texas.

Cramer had won both of his starts since being called up from Triple-A Sacramento on Sept. 10 but was in trouble early and often against Texas. The left-handed rookie allowed eight hits and four runs.

Jeremy Hermida matched his career high with four hits for Oakland.

NOTES: Guerrero needed only a triple to become the second Texas player to hit for the cycle this season. Catcher Bengie Molina did it against Boston on July 16. … Cramer was attempting to become the first A’s pitcher to win his first three starts since Dave Hamilton won four straight in 1972. … Texas is 8-9 against the A’s this season. … The Rangers played their 19th straight game without OF Josh Hamilton, who is still nursing two broken ribs. Hamilton will be re-evaluated in the next 2-3 days. … Oakland extended its player development contract with Triple-A Sacramento through 2014. … The 18 hits by Texas are two shy of its season-high.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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