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DETROIT (AP) — Yovani Gallardo has helped the Texas Rangers stay in the mix for a playoff spot in the American League, and he relishes the opportunity to pitch in meaningful games down the stretch.
"This is when baseball gets fun," he said. "It's fun to go out there and compete and know the fact that it's a must-win every time. It's a must-win every day."
Gallardo took a shutout into the seventh inning, and the Rangers spoiled Randy Wolf's return to the major leagues with a 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.
Texas took the lead in the race for the AL's second wild card, moving a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers have won eight of their last 10.
"I think this is what you prepare yourself for," Gallardo said. "Obviously, the last two months of the season are very important, especially in the situation that we're in."
Texas scored four runs in the third, when the Rangers hit five straight singles. That was enough support for Gallardo (10-9), who allowed eight hits in six-plus innings. The Tigers didn't score until Ian Kinsler's three-run homer with two outs in the ninth.
Wolf (0-1) allowed three earned runs and nine hits in seven innings, acquitting himself fairly well in his first major league start since June 2014. Wolf, who turned 39 on Saturday, was acquired by Detroit in a trade with Toronto on Thursday, as the Tigers tried to shore up a rotation that is missing injured starters Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris.
"I bring up the average age a little bit," Wolf joked. "I feel like I could give good innings, help this team with some stability. That's really my goal. I'm not going to come in here and have a sub-1.00 ERA and be amazing, but I feel like if I give as many solid innings in a game as I possibly can, that helps out not only the rotation, but the bullpen as well."
Rougned Odor hit a solo homer for Texas in the ninth.
With one out in the third, Delino DeShields, Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli all hit singles, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead. Elvis Andrus then added an RBI groundout.
Beltre had three hits for the Rangers. Miguel Cabrera had two for the Tigers, raising his average to .365.
The Tigers had at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings but didn't score until the ninth, when Texas brought in closer Shawn Tolleson in a non-save situation. Kinsler greeted Tolleson with a homer to left, but Tyler Collins then struck out - with Cabrera on deck - to end the game.
Gallardo walked one and struck out four, and he lowered his ERA to 3.25.
Beltre played his 2,527th game, trying Julio Franco's record for a player born in the Dominican Republic.
In the ninth inning, Jose Iglesias hit a chopper toward third, and Beltre had no choice but to let it roll and hope it would go foul. When it didn't, Beltre playfully gave the ball a gentle kick into foul ground, but the umps weren't fooled.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister spent some time earlier Saturday with new Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.
"Spent about 35, 40 minutes in his office, talking coaching," Banister said. "I try to learn as much as I possibly can from guys that have been at the pinnacle."
Detroit reliever Guido Knudson made his major league debut in the ninth. He struck out the first batter he faced, but then Odor connected for his 10th home run of the season.
"It was supposed to be inside down, and it ended up, well, sort of middle up," Knudson said. "That's the worst place to throw a pitch to a lefty."
Rangers: With a day off Monday, Texas will skip LHP Martin Perez's turn in the rotation Wednesday in an effort to limit the 24-year-old's innings. Perez had elbow surgery last year.
Tigers: Sanchez is on the DL with a right rotator cuff strain. He said he's been working to get the inflammation out of the shoulder, and there is no set timetable yet for when he will resume throwing.
Texas LHP Cole Hamels (6-8) faces Detroit LHP Matt Boyd (1-1) on Sunday.
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