Rangers come up big in crucial situation

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It seems that every time the AL West race has tightened or the Texas Rangers haven't played up to their capabilities, they've found a way to win a big game or a crucial series.

"That's why we're the best team in the AL right now, up to this point," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "I hope ya'll don't forget that."

Texas reminded anyone who wasn't sure with a critical win over the pesky Oakland A's on Thursday.

It wasn't easy. The Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead -- Kinsler set the tone with a smash over the left-field wall on the second pitch he saw in the game -- and then had to hang on as the A's scored runs late to tighten things. In the end, it was a 9-7 victory that lowered the magic number to three and pushed the AL West lead back up to four games. It's a nice cushion to have with just six games left in the 2012 season. Texas sits on the cusp of its third-consecutive AL West crown.

"We want to respond," Kinsler said. "We want to be a team that's tough to put away. Other teams know we're very good, but they also know that our chemistry is very good also. They have to fight through that, too. We're going to fight to the end."

Kinsler's words are telling. He knows there's a sense among the fan base and the media that this Rangers team hasn't played to its capabilities depite having the best record in the AL. But while outsiders nitpick a club that now has 92 wins and is vying for a third consecutive trip to the World Series, the guys inside the clubhouse and the coaching staff maintain an even keel.

"They've always given a response," manager Ron Washington said. "Every time people decide to jump off our little submarine, we resurface. You can jump off, but you can't get back on."

Did Kinsler need to remind himself that the Rangers were the best team in the AL?

"No. Never," Kinsler said. "I've known we're the best team since April."

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