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Harrison fans six over eight innings

It's essentially not a matter of if, but when the Rangers will clinch a playoff spot, but the American League West crown is a different story.

The Athletics aren't going down without a fight. They have taken two of the first three games of a four-games series in Arlington this week, trimming the Rangers' division lead to three games going into Thursday's series finale. After each team plays a three-game series against another team from their division this weekend, the Rangers and A's end the season with three games against each other next week in Oakland.

"It doesn't matter who we're playing or what other teams are doing," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We just have to win games. We just have to do what we have to do to win games.

The Rangers' magic number to clinch their third straight AL West title is five. They'll send All-Star left-hander Matt Harrison to the mound on Thursday as Texas tries to trim that magic number to three going into a three-game series at home against the Angels beginning on Friday. Harrison is 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his last three starts, losing his last one against the Mariners on Saturday despite allowing just one run on seven hits over eight innings.

"It's definitely a start I want to win," Harrison said. "Put the team in a position to win and cut that magic number. We'd like to clinch this thing on the homestand."

A's Thursday starter Travis Blackley's last outing did not go as well. He made his first start of the month on Saturday, giving up four runs (two earned) on four hits in two innings of a 10-9, 14-inning loss to the Yankees. The A's scored four times in the top of 13th inning in that game before the Yankees tied it in the bottom half and won it in the 14th.

Until Wednesday, Blackley was considered a second-year player. But upon discovering that the 2006 season that he spent with the A's while on the disabled list was factored into his service time, the 29-year-old right-hander is now officially a rookie. His team had its rookie hazing day last week but could bring it back just for Blackley.

"I said I'd do it," Blackley said. "But I really think we have much more important things to worry about right now."

The A's hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Angels for the second AL Wild Card spot, and their magic number stands at six.

Athletics: Anderson could return for postseason
Left-hander Brett Anderson is hopeful that he can come back in time to pitch in the playoffs, if the A's make it. He suffered a strained right oblique last week and was scratched from his start on Monday. Anderson missed the first 120 games of this season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and is 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in six starts since. He could play catch as soon as Thursday.

"I don't want to get too optimistic," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We have a lot of work to do before we get to a potential place where he can pitch again. But it is encouraging that he is at the point where he is right now. I know he's very excited."

• A's hitters set an AL record for strikeouts in a season in the second inning of Wednesday's game against the Rangers. They came into the game with 1,322 strikeouts, two shy of the AL record set by the Rays in 2007. After Josh Reddick struck out in the first inning, Roy Oswalt fanned Yoenis Cespedes and Chris Carter in the second, giving the A's the dubious record. The Major League record was set by the D-backs (1,529) in 2010.

Rangers: Darvish set to return Sunday
Yu Darvish, who was scratched on Tuesday with neck stiffness, is scheduled to return to the mound for Sunday's series finale against the Angels. He was able to play catch on Wednesday, something he couldn't do on Tuesday.

"He's much better today, we'll see how he is after he gets treatment," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "If he's 100 percent before Sunday, you might see him before Sunday."

• The Rangers handed out Minor League awards for August and September. Right-hander Angelo Leclerc went 2-1 with a 1.26 ERA in his last six outings for the Arizona League Rangers to earn Pitcher of the Month honors while his teammate, left-hander Alexander Claudio was named the Reliever of the Month. Claudio went 3-0 with one save and a 0.77 ERA, striking out 32 and walking three in 23 1/3 innings last month.

Triple-A outfielder Leonys Martin, who batted .379 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 24 August games, was named Player of the Month and Preston Beck was named Defender of the Month. Beck, the Rangers' fifth-round pick in this year's Draft, had a league-best 12 outfield assists for short-season Class A Spokane.

Worth noting
• Josh Hamilton's .321 batting average in day games this year is the fifth-best in the AL. Michael Young is hitting .311 in day games this season, good for sixth-best in the AL.

• Brandon Moss committed his eighth error of the year in the fourth inning of Wednesday's win over the Rangers, marking the fifth straight game the A's have committed an error.

• Koji Uehara threw one scoreless inning in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the A's and has tossed seven scoreless innings in nine outings this month, holding opposing hitters to a .048 batting average in September. He's retired 16 straight batters. Comments