Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Royals 1

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was all Matt Garza on Saturday night in Kansas City. And, boy, did the Texas Rangers ever need this.

Garza kept Texas right on the heels of the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians in the American League wild-card race, allowing one run in eight dominating innings as the Rangers topped the Kansas City Royals 3-1 at Kauffman Stadium.

After Garza gave up a home run to start the top of the ninth, closer Joe Nathan came on to pick up his 40th career save against the Royals, the most by any pitcher versus the Kansas City franchise. Nathan had two strikeouts.

Wild-card race: The Rangers needed the win because Tampa Bay and Cleveland, the teams in front of them holding down the wild-card spots, both won on Saturday. The Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-1, damaging the Orioles' playoff hopes. The Indians beat the Houston Astros 4-1. The Rangers remained a game behind the Rays and a half-game behind the Indians. Texas is all but done in the American League West. Oakland won and needs a win Sunday or a Rangers loss to clinch the division title.

Garza deals: Garza put a halt to his September slump. He was terrific against the Royals, commanding the strike zone and allowing just five hits in eight innings. He had only one walk after surrendering six in his past two starts. Garza had a stretch during which he retired 10 straight batters after he established control in the first inning. He did finally allow a run in the top of the ninth when Eric Hosmer led off with a home run over the left-field fence. Garza threw 97 pitches, 70 for strikes.

Rangers strike first: Ian Kinsler started the game with a triple up the right-center field alley and scored on Elvis Andrus' groundout to shortstop. Kinsler's triple was the Rangers' first three-bagger in the first inning this season. It was the first leadoff triple by a Ranger to begin a game since Kinsler did it on May 26, 2009, against the Yankees.

Taking advantage of walks: It seems like, lately, every time a Rangers pitcher walks someone it leads to a run. Well, the Rangers scored two runs on walks in the third inning. After Kinsler grounded out, Andrus and Alex Rios walked. Adrian Beltre then hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Royals second baseman Emilio Bonifacio got in front of but let go through his legs for what was scored as an RBI single. Rios made it to third on the play and scored on A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

Gentry stays hot: Craig Gentry started in left field against a right-handed starter and had three more singles, giving him seven hits for his past two starts. Gentry had four hits on Thursday night in Tampa Bay but didn't play Friday night against the Royals.

Up next: Texas and Kansas City finish up their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium with Rangers right-hander Alexi Ogando (7-4, 3.15 ERA) facing Royals right-hander James Shields (12-9, 3.33) at 1:10 p.m. Sunday on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.