OAKLAND, Calif. -- Having taken care of the bottom-feeders of the American League West, the Texas Rangers can now turn their attention to the only team in the division that can keep them from going to the playoffs for a second straight year.
The good news is that no matter what happens the next four nights, the Rangers are assured of leaving Anaheim with no worse than a first-place tie after completing a sweep of Oakland.
But getting to a four-game lead wasn't easy.
Despite taking advantage of a wild Rich Harden and more defensive sloppiness by the A's to build a six-run lead, the Rangers needed an RBI single from David Murphy in the ninth inning Sunday to beat the A's 7-6 and complete a three-game sweep.
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"It you look at the big picture, we're right where we need to be heading into Anaheim," Murphy said. "Having that lead early on, there are no guarantees. Oakland is a major league team, and we did a good job of just letting them tie it up.
"All we had to do was score one run to win the game."
Murphy's hit became necessary after the A's rallied from a 6-0 hole.
Oakland took out Matt Harrison in the sixth after the left-hander appeared to have pitched five scoreless innings. But Ian Kinsler booted a Hideki Matsui grounder with two outs as two runs scored.
The error snapped Kinsler's streak of 42 consecutive games without a fielding gaffe, and Harrison would record only two more outs.
The A's pulled even with four runs in the sixth. Each run was charged to Harrison, who warmed up for the inning with a team of dancers performing directly behind home plate.
He seemed distracted by the dancers as he allowed a leadoff double to Scott Sizemore, let the final three batters he faced reach, and was called for a balk. But he said later he simply ran out of gas.
The final two to reach against Harrison would score against Darren Oliver, who issued an RBI single to Jemile Weeks and the equalizer to Matsui with two outs.
But Yoshinori Tateyama and Mike Adams kept the game tied, and the Rangers won it against A's closer Andrew Bailey in the ninth. Mitch Moreland walked with one out and was removed for Craig Gentry, who stole second base with two outs.
Murphy bounced a grounder through the middle, and Gentry scored easily. Neftali Feliz then set down the A's No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters for his 23rd save.
The Rangers took advantage of Harden's control problems early, scoring three times in the first. Kinsler was plunked by a 1-2 fastball before Elvis Andrus flied out and Josh Hamilton singled.
Harden jumped ahead of Michael Young 0-2, but a wild pitch allowed Kinsler to score. Young eventually worked a walk, and Nelson Cruz followed with an infield hit.
That brought up Mike Napoli, who walked to force in the Rangers' second run. Moreland then delivered a sacrifice fly.
The Rangers tacked on another in the fourth. They loaded the bases with no outs but needed another walk to Young to push a run across.
Harden was at 98 pitches after four innings and was done with a pitching line that included five walks.
The A's seventh error of the series provided two more runs in the fifth as right fielder David DeJesus dropped a Kinsler fly ball that would have ended the inning.
Kinsler returned the favor in the bottom half, handing the A's the first two runs they would get against Harrison and giving them life.
"We were in a situation that's tough to do, and that's try and sweep a team," manager Ron Washington said. "They were in a situation that's desperate, and they were fighting hard. You get up 6-0, you think they would lay down, but they didn't."