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TEX@OAK: Cruz hits a three-run blast to left

OAKLAND -- In his office before Saturday's game with the Athletics, manager Ron Washington leaned back in his chair and summed up the Rangers' situation succinctly.

"We just need a big hit," Washington said. "One big hit, that will take care of everything."

The big hit was delivered on Saturday. Several in fact, which was more than enough to support starter Colby Lewis in the Rangers' 11-2 victory over the Athletics on a sunny but windy afternoon at the Coliseum. The victory allowed the Rangers to finish April in first place in the American League West with a one-game lead over the Angels.

The Rangers, one day after being held without an extra-base hit in a 3-1 loss, hit three home runs off Athletics starter Brett Anderson. They also scored 11 runs after managing just 17 in their previous five games.

"We came in and faced another tough pitcher and wanted to make sure we had a better approach as a team," first baseman Michael Young said. "Without getting too specific, we just wanted to bear down and attack pitches in the zone, have a game plan and stay with it.

"We know he's a very good pitcher. We wanted to make sure we swung at strikes. The last thing we want to do when facing a good pitcher is help him by chasing pitches out of the strike zone."

Young hit one of the Rangers' three home runs, a two-run shot in the third inning that broke a 1-1 tie. It was his first home run in 27 games, the longest homerless streak to start the season in his career.

Nelson Cruz, with the Rangers up 3-2, broke the game open with a three-run home run in the fifth inning. That was just his second home run in 19 games.

"I don't care about home runs," Cruz said. "The home runs are going to come. I'm just trying to square the ball up. The last thing I'm thinking about is home runs."

Mike Napoli followed Cruz with a home run to center field that gave the Rangers a 7-2 lead. That was the first time the Rangers hit back-to-back home runs this season.

"Today we came out strong," Cruz said. "We were being aggressive and just looking for the right pitch to hit. We had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do to us and we were ready."

Anderson entered the game with a 1.56 ERA and had not allowed a home run in 34 2/3 innings. This is only the sixth time in 55 career starts he has allowed multiple home runs in a game. The last time he gave up three homers in a game was in his third Major League start on April 22, 2009, against the Yankees.

"It was pretty much the perfect storm of everything bad," Anderson said. "Stuff was bad, command was bad, just a bad day.

"It was probably the worst stuff I've ever had dating back to high school. Just terrible. It's almost embarrassing and comical. The only thing I can take solace in is that it's going to be better next time."

For all the big home runs, a crucial run came in the first inning, manufactured by Elvis Andrus' baserunning and a big two-out hit by Adrian Beltre.

Anderson walked Andrus with one out. Young followed with a double-play grounder at A's second baseman Andy LaRoche, a third baseman forced into an unfamiliar position when Mark Ellis was scratched because of illness prior to the game.

LaRoche fielded the ball as Andrus was approaching him. Andrus stopped, hoping to make LaRoche waste time trying to tag him and allow Young to reach first. LaRoche decided to throw to first to get Young. The hope was Andrus would then be tagged out in a rundown. But he was too quick and dove safely into second. That allowed him to score on Beltre's double.

"We have been one big hit away from doing good things," Washington said. "Beltre got us started, and from that point on, we kept getting baserunners on base and were able to get them in. This is the type of day we needed to have."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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