<
>

Nix, Young with crucial two-run hits

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- No matter how many times the Texas
Rangers seem on the verge of falling out of the AL West race, they
keep finding ways to keep their dream season going.

They added another wild victory to their collection Friday
night, capping a rally from an early four-run deficit by scoring
four times with two out in the bottom of the eighth to beat the
Oakland Athletics 7-5 and reclaim first place in the division.

The Rangers came in having lost three straight and five of six.
That skid, combined with a six-game winning streak by Oakland, let
a 4½-game lead over the A's turn into a half-game deficit in just
one week. And in the bottom of the fourth of this game, their
starter was already knocked out -- for the second straight night --
and they'd yet to get a hit off A's starter Rich Harden.

"We have it ingrained in our heads that we can come back,"
said Texas' Michael Young, who drove in the final two runs.
"That's why we never give away at-bats. There's a definite vibe
among guys that in any situation, we can get it done."

The comeback began with two runs off Harden in the fifth, but
the Rangers blew a chance for more in the sixth. Harden gave way to
the bullpen in the seventh, but that was no relief for Texas
because A's relievers had a streak of 20 scoreless innings until
closer Octavio Dotel gave up a harmless run in the ninth Thursday
night.

Mark Teixeira revived hopes by hitting a solo homer off Justin
Lehr with one out in the eighth. Chad Bradford (5-5) took over and
loaded the bases with two out by intentionally walking David
Dellucci and hitting pinch-hitter Kevin Mench on the foot.

Laynce Nix, the No. 9 hitter who had been in a 3-for-33 slump,
fouled off several 0-2 pitches then lined a two-run single into
right field to put Texas ahead for the first time. Dellucci scored
the go-ahead run by diving headfirst and stretching to touch home
while avoiding a tag attempt by catcher Damian Miller.

"You want to do something like this for your teammates," said
Nix, who added a nifty slide of his own when Young followed with
another single.

A's manager Ken Macha said seeing Dellucci and Nix score from
second was pretty demoralizing. He added that he didn't turn to
Dotel because he'd saved two of the previous three games and warmed
up in the other.

"They got it going in that eighth and we just couldn't stop
them," Macha said. "Those guys play hard, they run the ball out,
they've got speed and they put pressure on you."

Rangers closer Francisco Cordero, who on Thursday signed an $8
million, two-year extension, allowed an RBI double to Miller in the
ninth but stranded him at second for his 31st save in 33 chances.

Frankie Francisco (2-1) pitched a hitless eighth for the
victory, just the fourth for Texas in 11 games against Oakland this
season.

The A's are 1-7-1 in their last nine road series since late May.
Had they held their early lead and won the first two games of this
four-game series, they could've really opened up the division race,
especially with their recent history of dominating in August and
September.

"We're not even two-thirds of the way through the season,"
Macha said. "It would've had a big bearing if there would've been
a sweep. But we've got a long way to go."

Harden gave up two runs on five hits, striking out five and
walking two. He's now allowed two runs or less in four straight
starts and five of his last six. The A's should be especially
pleased with this performance because it showed his arm is fine
despite having thrown 119 and 125 pitches his last two outings.

Oakland knocked out Texas starter Sam Narron, who was making his
big-league debut, after 2 2-3 innings. He gave up four earned runs
on three homers, two of them by Eric Byrnes.

"Surprisingly, I was not as nervous as I thought I was going to
be," Narron said. "When you make a mistake in Triple-A, they hit
it hard. Here, they hit it out."

Hank Blalock broke up Harden's shutout bid with a two-out RBI
single in the fifth. Another run scored on a wild pitch.

Texas had runners on second and third with two out in the sixth,
but Harden struck out Gerald Laird on a high, inside fastball
clocked at 97 mph.

Game notes
Oakland's Marco Scutaro, who came in with the highest
fielding percentage among big-league 2Bs, committed his third error
of the season when he failed to squeeze a flip at second base on a
force play in the first inning. ... Roberta Zito, the mother of A's
pitcher Barry Zito and the recipient of a liver transplant in 1999,
threw out the first pitch as part of an organ donor awareness
promotion.