ARLINGTON, Texas - When the ball caromed away from Texas Rangers center fielder Craig Gentry, he quickly recovered to get it and throw to shortstop Elvis Andrus. The game was over after a perfect relay to the plate.
Oakland's Josh Donaldson was tagged out by catcher A.J. Pierzynski, preserving the Rangers' series-clinching 4-3 victory over the AL West-leading Athletics on Thursday.
Donaldson, who reached on a two-out single off closer Joe Nathan, was trying to score from first on Seth Smith's fast-sinking ball that that short-hopped the charging Gentry.
"Little did we know, fortunately, that ended up being a blessing," Nathan said.
"I was hoping that Gentry had enough foot speed to catch it, but it sunk on him, but he kept it almost in front of him, not too far," manager Ron Washington said. "If he didn't hit Elvis with the relay perfectly, I don't think we would have been able to pull that play off."
Ian Kinsler put the Rangers ahead for the first time with his two-out single in the seventh.
Texas pulled within a game of the Athletics by winning three times in the four-game set. The division's top two teams don't play again until the first weekend of August.
"Any win right now is special, especially against a good team like the A's, especially to win the series," Andrus said. "They're really aggressive on the bases. ... I just want to get the ball quick, so I can make a throw and make that guy stop."
Kinsler batted in the seventh right after Leonys Martin's hustling infield single, getting to first base ahead of Sean Doolittle (3-2) when the pitcher was taking the toss from first baseman Brandon Moss. That loaded the bases with two outs, and Kinsler hit a full-count pitch through the middle of the infield.
Donaldson and Smith singled in the ninth after Nathan struck out the first two hitters.
When Donaldson saw the ball get away from Gentry, who replaced Martin defensively in center to start the ninth. Donaldson never slowed down rounding third base even as coach Mike Gallego signaled him to stop after initially waving him home.
"As soon as I saw it hit his chest, I was gone," Donaldson said. "It took a perfect throw to get me. It sucks to lose a game that way, but you take that chance."