Josh Hamilton, Tommy Hunter help Rangers widen AL West lead over A's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton helped keep Tommy Hunter's success going at home.

Hamilton had his major league-high 24th three-hit game of the season, Hunter pitched into the eighth inning and the AL West-leading Rangers pulled farther away from the Athletics with a 7-3 victory over Oakland on Friday night.

Hunter (11-2) improved to 7-0 in nine starts at Rangers Ballpark this season, allowing three runs and seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks before leaving with two outs in the seventh.

"A lot of defense and a lot of well-hit balls by teammates," Hunter said of his unbeaten run at home. "We score a lot of runs, you have to take that into consideration. There are a lot of guys who'd have success if they had as much run support as I do. I continue to enjoy getting it and hopefully they continue giving it."

Texas has averaged eight runs in Hunter's seven home wins.

The Rangers increased their division advantage over the second-place A's to 9½ games, and Hunter is looking forward to having more fun in October.

"I want to go to the playoffs, I want to win a World Series," Hunter said. "I don't read too far into it, but we need to go deep into the postseason. That's what baseball is all about, winning a World Series. That's what we're working for."

Hamilton raised his major league-best batting average to .358 and demonstrated his speed in the first when he scored from second on an infield single.

His dash home highlighted a three-run first off Brett Anderson (3-5). Hamilton doubled with two outs, then rounded third on Vladimir Guerrero's single off the glove of first baseman Daric Barton. Second baseman Mark Ellis retrieved the ball in short right field and fired to the plate, where Hamilton slid head-first ahead of catcher Kurt Suzuki's tag.

Hamilton also made a tough, running catch on the warning track in left field of Ellis' drive in the ninth. Hamilton smacked into the padded wall after tracking down the ball and emerged with a big smile on his face.

"I can't say enough about what Hamilton did tonight, his skills were on display again," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That ninth inning, what Hamilton did, it saved it there. Because if that ball falls, no telling what could happen and we may not have been able to get out of it."

The catch was also Hamilton's favorite play of the night.

"Anytime I can take something away from somebody, that's what I love doing most," Hamilton said.

Andres Blanco and Julio Borbon, the Nos. 8 and 9 batters in the Rangers order, added three hits each as Texas won for the fifth time in six games to maintain the largest lead in the majors.

Kevin Kouzmanoff had a two-run homer in the sixth and Barton connected with the bases empty in the eighth for the A's, who've lost four of six.

"They didn't really hit the ball hard off any of our guys, to be honest," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "We actually made more loud contact than they did. They ended up with seven runs, but I think they had six infield hits and a bloop double. They got some breaks and took advantage of it."

Speed helped that. It was a weapon for the Rangers again in the second with three straight infield singles, the last by Elvis Andrus to produce their fourth run.

Anderson was removed after two innings with a hyperextended right knee after allowing four runs and six hits. His right foot landed in a hole on the mound during his follow-through on a pitch to Borbon in the second.

Anderson fell awkwardly, and a trainer and Geren ran into the field to check on Anderson.

After throwing a couple of practice pitches, Anderson remained in the game, but was replaced by Boof Bonser to begin the third.

Geren said the A's would know more about the severity of Anderson's injury on Saturday.

Rangers right-hander Frank Francisco left the game in the ninth when he reinjured his right side while walking the leadoff man.

Francisco was making his first appearance since a cortisone shot in his right armpit on Monday. He'll have an MRI on Saturday.

Game notes
Rangers LHP Cliff Lee will take his regular turn Tuesday night in Kansas City despite an 8.39 ERA over his last four starts. The Rangers have considered extra rest for Lee, who's gone at least seven innings in 19 of his 23 starts this season. Lee says he doesn't need a break, and manager Ron Washington will go with the current rotation for now. ... Texas 2B Ian Kinsler will begin a four-game rehab assignment for Double-A Frisco on Saturday. Kinsler, out since July 29 with a strained left groin, is expected to be activated by Sept. 3 for a three-game series at Minnesota. ... RHP Ben Sheets joined his A's teammates for the first time since extensive surgery on his right elbow on Aug. 9, unsure of his future in baseball. He knows he probably won't be able to take the mound in 2011 as he faces a rehab of from 12 to 18 months. As for 2012, Sheets said he's open to resuming his career depending on his level of recovery.