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Blanton, A's beat Rangers, solidify hold on West

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics are doing their
best to eliminate one of their pursuers in the AL West.

Texas entered the weekend needing a series sweep to get back in
the race. Instead, the Rangers are on the verge of being swept and
falling 10 games behind division-leading Oakland with a month left
in the season.

Joe Blanton provided another strong pitching performance, though
he ran into trouble in the seventh, and Nick Swisher homered in the
Athletics' 5-3 victory Saturday night. Frank Thomas scored a run
and drove in another.

"It's coming down to crunch time, so this was a big series for
us," Oakland second baseman Mark Ellis said. "We had two teams
chasing us. We felt like if we played good this weekend, we could
kind of take care of business a little bit."

Oakland (74-55) remained 5½ games ahead of the Los Angeles
Angels, who beat the New York Yankees earlier Saturday. The
Athletics, a major league-best 18-5 in August, wrap up their
10-game road trip Sunday before playing nine straight at home.

"One of the teams that's chasing us isn't losing," Ellis said.

"Fortunately, we've got good pitching the last two days," A's
manager Ken Macha said. "The thing we do here, we come to the
ballpark for that day and not look too far ahead."

The Rangers lost for the fifth time in six games, including a
9-3 defeat in the series opener Friday night when Barry Zito took a
no-hit bid into the eighth inning. Texas (66-65) is a season-high
nine games back in the AL West with 31 games left.

"We still hold out hope that things could change. That's the
mentality we're still going to have," Rangers manager Buck
Showalter said.

"We are in a tough spot. We can go one of two directions,"
All-Star shortstop Michael Young said. "I think I know which way
we'll go."

Young didn't elaborate.

Thomas put Oakland ahead to stay when he led off the second with
a single and scored on Jay Payton's groundout. An inning later,
Thomas' sacrifice fly plated Jason Kendall, who was 3-for-5 for his
fifth straight multihit game.

Blanton (14-10) left with two outs and two on in the seventh.
Kiko Calero didn't retire either hitter he faced, allowing a
two-run single to Carlos Lee before Joe Kennedy got Mark Teixeira
to fly out. Lee drove in all the Texas runs.

Blanton struck out six, four in a row after Teixeira led off the
second with a single, and walked one. Justin Duchscherer pitched a
perfect ninth for his fifth save in seven chances.

"We can't look at what happened the last two days and feel
sorry for ourselves," Teixeira said. "We've got to try to win
Sunday."

Adam Eaton (3-4) needed only 11 pitches to get through the
first, but struggled after that. The right-hander was gone after
the first four batters in the fourth reached and the A's took a 4-0
lead.

Blanton is 6-2 with a 3.38 ERA in eight starts since the
All-Star break. The right-hander hasn't allowed a home run in his
last seven starts, a span of 45 2/3 innings and 201 batters faced.

Young and Lee had back-to-back doubles in the sixth. Lee got
credited with a double and drove in Young with a hopper up the
middle that shortstop Marco Scutaro kicked into the outfield while
trying to make a sliding stop.

Swisher's 27th homer came on the first pitch of the fourth. A
walk and double by Ellis followed before Kendall's RBI single.
Reliever Joaquin Benoit got an out with an unusual fielder's choice
before he escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Eric Chavez.

Teixeira snagged Milton Bradley's grounder, but got Ellis trying
to score with an unassisted putout. The Gold Glove first baseman
charged Ellis, who froze halfway between third and home. When he
finally made a move toward home, he was called out by plate umpire
Mike Everitt for going out of the baseline trying to avoid the
tag.

Game notes
Ellis' errorless streak of 58 games ended in the third
inning when he misplayed a grounder by Gary Matthews Jr. It was
only his second error in 470 chances this season. ... Kendall has
multiple hits in 11 of his last 14 games, going 27-for-61 in that
span to raise his average 25 points to .296. ... After Sunday, the
A's and Rangers play only one more three-game series, Sept. 4-6 in
Oakland.