OAKLAND -- After his teammates battled for 3 1/2 hours, lost a six-run lead and then had a couple of reserve players come through in the ninth, Rangers closer Neftali Feliz knew this potential win was too big to let slip away."The way that game was going, I knew I had to be 100 percent sharp," Feliz said. "This was a very good game -- an important game -- to win despite the way we played." Feliz did his job, making a crucial stolen base by Craig Gentry and a go-ahead single from David Murphy in the top of the ninth inning stand up for a 7-6 victory over the Athletics on a Sunday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. The Rangers, by completing a three-game sweep of the Athletics, have now won eight of their last 10 games. With the Angels losing in Toronto, the Rangers have a four-game lead in the American League West. They also have a four-game series against the Angels that starts on Monday in Anaheim. "We're excited about it," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "We want to win every game and to see the Angels lose ... I don't want to say it relaxes us, but it makes us want to get after it more and send a message. The three-game sweep marked the second time in a row the Rangers have swept the Athletics. They took four straight at the Ballpark in Arlington right before the All-Star break and their eight-game overall winning streak against the Athletics is their longest against them since 1983. "We were in a situation that's tough to do, and that's try to sweep a team," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They were in a situation that's desperate, and they were fighting hard. You get up 6-0, you think they would lay down, but they didn't. Bob Melvin is not going to let that happen. They really battled us today." The Rangers did have a 6-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings, but the Athletics came back to tie it with two in the fifth and four in the sixth. To keep it that way, they sent closer Andrew Bailey to the mound in the ninth, but he walked Mitch Moreland with one out. Washington then sent Gentry in to pinch-run with designs on him stealing second. But Gentry, who had the green light to steal on any pitch he chose, stayed at first while Bailey struck out Yorvit Torrealba and got ahead 1-2 in the count to Murphy. At that point, Washington told Gentry to run on the next pitch. "He had to go," Washington said. "I had the green light the whole time, but he was quick to the plate," Gentry said. "I wanted to be sure and he was quicker to the plate than I expected." One thing changed when Bailey got ahead 1-2 on Murphy. He stopped worrying about Gentry. "The guy has some speed, and that's one of his jobs, to come in and steal a base," Bailey said. "I wanted to keep him close, but once I got two strikes on Murphy, I wanted to get the hitter and not worry so much about the runner. If I execute that pitch, it would be a different story." Bailey missed low with a 1-2 fastball and Gentry stole second without a throw from catcher Kurt Suzuki. Bailey then missed with a cut fastball and Murphy smacked a grounder up the middle for a single that chased home Gentry. "I wasn't taking pitches so Gentry could steal," Murphy said. "When a guy has stuff like that, you don't want to wait until you get two strikes. He's got the kind of stuff that can put you away. He painted with those first two strikes and Gentry got a chance to steal." Murphy also got a chance to deliver a big hit. He started because Washington wanted to give Endy Chavez a day off. He was 1-for-12 coming into the game and had just two RBIs in his last 14 games. "It hasn't been a great season for me, but it doesn't matter," Murphy said. "The team is in a great spot. There's no reason to focus on anything but the team." The Rangers should have had an easier time putting this one away. They took advantage of Oakland starter Rich Harden's erratic control to take a 4-0 lead and outfielder David DeJesus' dropped an easy fly ball in the fifth that brought home two more runs. But Harrison couldn't hold the lead long enough to get the victory. Two runs scored in the fifth when second baseman Ian Kinsler let a grounder get through him for an error, snapping his 42-game errorless streak. Harrison then couldn't get out of the sixth as the Athletics scored four runs off him and reliever Darren Oliver to tie the game. Harrison left after 5 1/3 innings and 108 pitches. It snapped a streak of pitching at least six innings in 11 straight starts. "They were seeing way too many of my pitches," Harrison said. "With a six-run lead, I have to do a better job of getting quick outs and making them put the ball in play. The first part of the game they were seeing too many pitches and it finally caught up to me. I ran out of gas." Oliver gave up a couple hits that brought home two runs charged to Harrison. But Yoshinori Tateyama, Mike Adams and Feliz combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings that kept it tied until the ninth. "The bullpen did a great job," Harrison said.
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.