Adrian Beltre didn't hear the "M-V-P" chants after he swatted a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning. After all, he was busy trying to avoid his teammates touching his head.
"It's nice, but I didn't hear that," Beltre said. "I was too excited."
Two innings later, Beltre gave the Rangers even more reason to be excited. He delivered the walkoff single to lift Texas to a 5-4 victory over Oakland, as it extended its lead in the American League West to five games with nine to play.
"He's a pro. He's a winner," Ron Washington said of Beltre. "He's a guy who doesn't think about anything other than what he can do for the team. He came up big tonight."
Every game is important at this point in the season, of course, and the Rangers are well aware of the significance of the victory. Not only did they cushion their lead, but they did it on a night that the Athletics were on the verge of making a strong statement.
Oakland got a strong start from rookie Dan Straily, and knocked Texas starter Derek Holland out of the game after three innings. The A's were seven outs away from taking the four-game series opener, and pulling to within three games of the Rangers.
Instead, Oakland left the Ballpark all but out of the AL West race.
"We're at the fun part of the season," designated hitter Michael Young said. "Every game is going to be big for the rest of the season."
Here are a few postgame notes:
* Derek Holland lasted only three innings, his shortest outing since a 1 2/3-inning start against Seattle on May 30. The start snapped a streak of six consecutive quality starts for Holland. "I didn't do my part," Holland said. "I was very disappointed in the way I pitched. I didn't execute my pitches. I was very erratic."
* Josh Hamilton homered in his first game back after missing five games with what was diagnosed as ocular keratitis, a condition that dries the corneas. Hamilton now leads the majors with 43 homers on the season, and has the second-most RBIs (124) behind Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (133).
* Roy Oswalt pitched for the first time since Sept. 9, throwing two scoreless innings. Koji Uehara pitched for the first time since Sept. 16, and threw a perfect seventh inning with two strikeouts.
-- Drew Davison