Rapid Reaction: Rangers 8, Rays 2

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Rangers didn't get the best Yu Darvish has to offer, but he survived for five innings and Texas belted four home runs to pull out a split of a four-game series with an 8-2 victory over the wild-card contending Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night at Tropicana Field.

The Rangers pulled even with the Rays for the top spot in the American League wild-card race. Both teams are 83-69 on the season.

Wild-card race: The Rangers and Rays got help in the AL wild-card race, as the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, but they didn't get a boost from the Houston Astros. The Cleveland Indians are still a half-game back after beating the Astros 3-2 in 11 innings. Baltimore fell to two games back. The Kansas City Royals, who were off while awaiting the arrival of the Rangers, are three back, and the Yankees are 3.5 games back.

Darvish goes five: It wasn't pretty, but Darvish did go five innings to earn his first victory since Aug. 12, snapping a four-game losing streak. He had gone six starts without a win. Darvish had a difficult first inning, throwing 40 pitches in the process of turning a 1-0 Rangers lead into a 2-1 deficit. He had three walks and a hit batter in the inning. He allowed an RBI double to James Loney to tie the game and walked Desmond Jennings to force in a run. Darvish put the leadoff batter on base in each of the first four innings, but catcher Geovany Soto threw out two runners trying to steal in the second inning and used double plays with two runners on to get out of the third and fourth innings. Darvish matched a season high with six walks and matched a season low with four strikeouts.

Home run barrage: The Rangers don't hit many home runs these days, but they did explode off Rays ace Matt Moore in the top of the third. Mitch Moreland, kept in the lineup because of defense, hammered an opposite-field home run to tie the game at two. After Ian Kinsler flew out to the warning track, Elvis Andrus belted his second home run of the series and fourth of the season for a 3-2 lead. Alex Rios then made it back-to-back homers with a rocket also to left field for a 4-2 lead.

Insurance runs: With Darvish struggling to get through every inning, the Rangers needed to keep tacking on runs, and they did. Craig Gentry started the fourth inning with a single and stole second base. Then, with two outs, Ian Kinsler drew a hard-earned walk. Gentry and Kinsler followed by pulling off a double steal. That paid dividends as Andrus beat out an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop. Gentry scored easily, and Kinsler kept running and also scored for a 6-2 lead.

Ross alert: Robbie Ross has become a forgotten man in the Rangers' bullpen, but, man, did he remind everyone what he can do when he's on. Ross struck out the side -- all swinging -- on 13 pitches in the sixth inning. He came back out for the seventh inning and had a 1-2-3 inning with two ground ball outs.

Gentry's big night: Gentry had the third four-hit game of his career with three singles and a triple. He drove in an insurance run on a two-out single in the top of the seventh.

Rios breaks out: Rios helped the Rangers take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Andrus reached on a one-out error and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Rios, who was 2-for-14 in the series without an RBI, ripped a line-drive single into center field for the lead. He was 2-for-5 with a home run, 2 RBIs and his 38th stolen base.

Moreland stays hot: Moreland didn't stop after his homer in the third. He had two more singles to finish the night 3-for-5. Moreland was 6-for-15 with 3 doubles, a home run, 4 RBIs and 4 runs scored in the four-game series.

Up next: The Rangers open a three-game series at Kansas City with left-hander Martin Perez (9-5, 3.64 ERA) facing Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (9-9, 3.23) at 7:10 p.m. Friday night on Channel 21 and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540 AM.