ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Texas Rangers' goal is modest but reachable: climb out of the AL West basement.
Hank Blalock homered and had three RBIs as the Rangers stretched their winning streak to four games with a 7-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Saturday night.Ian Kinsler added his 19th homer, tops among AL second basemen, and had two hits, making him 17-for-34 in his last seven games.Marlon Byrd contributed three hits as the Rangers won for the 11th time in 13 games to pull within a game of the third-place A's. The Rangers, who have been in last place in the division since April 25, have finished third the last three seasons."Catching (the A's) would give us a good lift going into next year," Texas' Frank Catalanotto said.Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro had two hits each for the A's, who have lost 10 of their last 14."Nobody wants to finish in last place," Swisher said. "So we've got to continue to battle."A.J. Murray (1-1) allowed two runs and three hits in three innings of relief for his first major league victory.Rookie Luis Mendoza made his major league debut for Texas, but lasted only two innings before leaving with a bruised left knee after being struck with a line drive off the bat of Swisher. Kason Gabbard was the scheduled starter, but was scratched on Saturday afternoon due to a blister on his left thumb.Mendoza was down for several minutes holding his knee in pain, but got back on his feet and remained in the game after throwing some practice pitches.Swisher was credited with a one-out single, but Mendoza got the final two outs of the inning and left with a 2-0 lead when Murray came on to pitch the third inning. X-rays on Mendoza's knee were negative.Mendoza was hurting after the game with a scrape the size of a golf ball on the inside of his knee. He will be given three or four days before he'll be allowed to throw again."I felt a lot of pain," he said. "I (couldn't) move my knee. I thought it might be broken because I felt it pop something. Then it started bleeding when it swelled up. It was disappointing. I just wanted to show them that I would be able to start games and help the team. I think I showed them that."Rangers manager Ron Washington gave Mendoza high marks for remaining in the game."He showed a lot of guts to stay out there after getting hit," Washington said.Swisher was pleased that Mendoza wasn't badly injured."You see him down like that and you say to yourself, 'Oh, man," Swisher said. "That's something you don't want to do, to hurt somebody like that."Mendoza was called up from Double-A Frisco on Wednesday and became the first Texas pitcher to make his big league debut in a start since John Rheinecker against Tampa Bay on April 22, 2006.Texas took a 2-0 lead in the first off Chad Gaudin (10-11) on Kinsler's solo homer and Blalock's RBI single.In the fourth, Blalock led off with his seventh homer as Gaudin continued to struggle. Later in the inning, RBI singles by Catalanotto, Michael Young and Byrd pushed the lead to 6-0 and ended Gaudin's outing.Gaudin, who has lost eight of his last 10 decisions, allowed six runs and 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings.The A's made it 6-2 off Murray in the fifth on Shannon Stewart's sacrifice fly and Scutaro's RBI single, but Blalock's RBI single in the seventh extended the Rangers' lead to 7-2.Young's two-out fielding error at shortstop in the eighth on Donnie Murphy's grounder allowed Swisher to score from third and pull Oakland within 7-3.
Mendoza was 15-4 with a 3.93 ERA in 26 games for Frisco. ... Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Rangers owner Tom Hicks is the chairman of Giuliani's campaign in Texas, and Hicks arranged for a Giuliani rally outside the stadium before the game. Giuliani also took about 25 swings of batting practice before the rally. ... Oakland starters are 1-8 in their last 14 games. ... In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Night, Latin players from both teams were introduced and given commemorative gifts. ... Mendoza became the 13th different starter used by the Rangers this season. ... Blalock has homered twice since coming off the DL on Sept. 2 after missing 106 days recovering from shoulder surgery. ... Oakland is 6-8 against Texas this season. ... The A's haven't committed an error in 10 straight games, a season-best streak.