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Wilson strikes out 11 in eight solid frames

ARLINGTON -- C.J. Wilson showed every bit of why the Rangers consider him their ace going down the stretch while guiding Texas to an 8-1 win over the A's on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

In front of a sellout crowd on an emotionally charged day and with the second-place Angels as close to the Rangers in the American League West standings as they've been since Aug. 10, Wilson was spectacular, tossing eight innings of shutout baseball.

"He's our No. 1 guy," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Our No. 1 guy we expect to go out there and do just what he did today."

Wilson has turned into a momentum stopper, someone who can end a losing streak single-handedly.

Each of the last five times that Wilson has taken the mound after a Rangers loss, the team has won, and Wilson has gone 4-0 with an astounding 0.76 ERA in those games.

Wilson (16-6) said he thrives on the pressure of being counted on to deliver.

"I love it, because that's what I expect out of myself -- to go out there and throw well," Wilson said. "That's all you work for. That's why, in the offseason, you run hills and lift weights, stay hydrated and get your rest. This is what it's all about right here. These last couple weeks are going to be the entire season for us. It's basically whoever plays better between us and Anaheim, and we have to show that we belong."

From the opposing dugout, A's manager Bob Melvin said he would trust Wilson in the postseason.

"Certainly the way he's pitched against us and looking at his record, I don't see why not," Melvin said.

Wilson struck out 11 batters, making him the first Rangers pitcher since Nolan Ryan in 1991 to strike out 10 or more batters six times during the course of a season.

"My mechanics are locked in a little bit," Wilson said. "It's just coming together. I feel like all the preparation and conditioning is paying off. I still feel good. The scoreboard was reading 94 [degrees], but I didn't think it was that hot. It felt great to go out there today."

The offense came up with more than six runs for the fourth time in the last five games and tied the franchise mark for most consecutive games (five) with at least 12 hits to ensure that Wilson earned the win.

After the first four innings, neither team had scored, and Wilson appeared to be locked in a duel with A's starter Josh Outman, but the Rangers batted around in the fifth, scoring four runs and taking control of the game.

"We grinded Outman down, and then we finally got to him," Washington said. "[Ian] Kinsler got us on the board, and then the rest of those guys chipped in and did the rest."

Adrian Beltre certainly did his part, belting home runs in consecutive at-bats as part of a four-hit, three-RBI afternoon.

The first home run was the 300th of his career. He is riding a 16-game hitting streak and has hit three home runs in the past two days.

"He's a pro, 13 years at it," Washington said. "The good thing about it is when he first came back, he saw pitches. He didn't come in and just start hacking. He's seeing pitches and getting his timing down. We certainly need him right now, and he's delivering."

While Beltre's two home runs were the most visible contribution, every starter got on base at least once, highlighted by Craig Gentry's career-high three-hit game.

"I felt good, I was just trying to go out there and be comfortable and get some things going for this team," Gentry said.

Washington said Gentry forced the A's to adjust to his speed, most notably when he stretched a double into a triple and when he tagged up to go to third on Josh Hamilton's flyout to center in the third inning.

"Today, he used it," Washington said. "I got on him the first time he got on the bag, because he didn't go first to third on that ball that Elvis [Andrus] hit, and after that, he just started running. That's what he does, so he should do it. Make them do things."

With the Angels losing, 6-5, to the Yankees on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers expanded their lead in the AL West to 2 1/2 games.

"We just have to play our game," Washington said. "Keep winning series, get an opportunity sometime to sweep some series, and we'll be all right. We're certainly not looking behind us, we're looking forward. They have to catch us, we don't have to catch them."

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