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Gentry's three-run triple puts Rangers ahead

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had to play shorthanded in the bullpen on Friday night. Mark Lowe went on the disabled list before the game, and Joe Nathan and Mike Adams were given the night off after pitching in three straight games.

The Rangers were still able to win a thrilling one-run game without them. They did so because starter Matt Harrison turned in another All-Star performance and rookie right-hander Tanner Scheppers filled in for Nathan in the ninth.

Craig Gentry's three-run triple in the eighth inning was also huge, as the Rangers rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Athletics at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers, who have won four straight and 12 of their previous 14, now lead the Angels by 5 1/2 games in the American League West.

"We kept grinding and grinding," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's why you play nine innings, and we played nine innings tonight. Harrison did an outstanding job. We couldn't ask anything more from him. He's pitched like an All-Star all year, and tonight he stepped up in the situation we were with our bullpen drained -- especially with our big horses down. "

Scheppers, in his ninth Major League appearance, pitched the ninth inning with a two-run lead and earned his first save even though he gave up a two-out home run to Chris Carter.

"I made it interesting, I guess," Scheppers said. "I just had to attack there in a one-run game. That's what you gotta do. Just attack the next guy and flush it."

Harrison, going against Oakland rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin, went eight innings and threw 121 pitches. He finished 5-0 for the month of June and is 7-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his past eight starts. He is now 11-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 16 starts this season, a record that leaves him with an excellent chance of being named to the AL All-Star team on Sunday.

"I still have another start to go against Chicago, and I have to prepare myself for that one," Harrison said. "I'll just rest tonight and come back tomorrow and prepare for that start. It's been a good month for me. I've figured out a lot of things and been able to execute a lot more lately and execute with guys on base. Hopefully I can continue to do that in my next start and the second half."

Griffin, making his second Major League start, was even better than Harrison, holding the Rangers scoreless through six innings. He gave up just two hits and two walks. But the Rangers did work him enough to get his pitch count up, and he had to come out of the game with a 2-0 lead after throwing 109 pitches.

"It's too bad they fouled a lot of balls off over the course of the game that got his pitch count up, to where we're not going to let him throw 120 pitches," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "He certainly did his job against the lineup here in a venue that's tough to pitch in. Great performance."

Turning it over to the Oakland bullpen is not a bad idea. Athletics relievers entered the game with a combined 2.88 ERA, the second-lowest mark in the league. Opponents were hitting .211 off them, the lowest of any bullpen. But they also had the second-highest number of walks, and that's what cost them in the eighth, when veteran Grant Balfour was called on.

Ian Kinsler flied out to start the inning. But Elvis Andrus singled to left and Josh Hamilton, after falling behind 0-2 in the count, drew a walk. Adrian Beltre flied out to right, but Balfour then walked Michael Young and Nelson Cruz to force in a run.

"Bad command, that's pretty much it," Balfour said. "I didn't throw strikes and I walked guys, and I leave myself in a bad situation. That's the way it is. Didn't get the job done."

Melvin then brought in closer Ryan Cook to face Gentry, who pinch-hit for David Murphy in the sixth inning and was hit by a pitch. This time, Gentry hit one over the head of Oakland left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who took a bad route, to bring home three runs with a triple.

"He's a great pitcher," Gentry said. "He's been throwing the ball great all year. He's got great stuff. Luckily I got a good pitch to hit and I was able to get the barrel of the bat on it. I knew I hit it pretty good, but off the bat I thought he was going to catch it."

"That was awesome," Harrison said. "I was excited we came back. Our team can explode at any time. It's fun to watch. You never know when it's going to happen, so I was trying to just put up as many zeros as I could."

That left the Rangers with a 4-2 lead with three outs to go. Washington said the Rangers didn't decide until late in the game they weren't going to use Nathan in the ninth. They decided to go with Scheppers, who had nine saves at Triple-A Round Rock before being called up on June 7.

"We decided to put some velocity on them," Washington said. "Joe Nathan and Mike Adams needed a break. We had to shut them down, and someone else had to get it done. Scheppers got it done."

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