A misplayed fly ball in the ninth inning that went for a two-run double represented progress Saturday night for slumping Rangers slugger Prince Fielder.
Fielder went 1 for 5 in Texas' 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics, who own the worst record in the American League. Despite the defeat, the Rangers remained 1 1/2 games behind first-place Houston in the AL West and a game ahead of Minnesota in the race for the second wild card.
Fielder has only four hits in his last 40 at-bats, dropping his batting average from .341 to .306.
"I'm not looking at numbers regardless of what the results are," Fielder said. "I'm just controlling my mindset and controlling trying to get a good pitch to hit."
Fielder's 2014 season ended in late May with a neck injury that required surgery. Both he and Texas manager Jeff Banister acknowledged there is an adjustment to playing a full season again after missing four months.
"I think at this time (last season) I was on the couch watching TV," Fielder said. "I'm starting to get comfortable again, but I hit a stretch where I got ... not tired, but I had to get back acclimated to playing every day. I think I'm feeling good now. Hopefully, I can keep it going."
Oakland left-hander Sean Nolin (1-1) limited Texas to five hits in 5 2-3 innings, including a solo homer by Mike Napoli in the second, to earn his first big league win. Texas is 25-28 this season against left-handed starters. On Wednesday in Seattle, the Rangers were held to one hit by lefty Vidal Nuno.
"I believe if we get to a spot where we want to go, we're going to see some left-handers," Banister said. "We've got to find a way. We're going to get it right."
Rangers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (12-10) lost for the first time in nine starts, ending a five-game winning streak. He allowed all five runs in the fifth on a three-run homer by Mark Canha, the AL rookie leader in RBIs, and a two-run homer by Danny Valencia.
Gallardo said he couldn't command his fastball from the start. Both homers came on curves. He lasted only 4 1-3 innings and hasn't gone more than six innings since June.
Texas' Shin-Soo Choo extended his hitting streak to 12 games and has reached base in 32 of his last 33 games.
The Rangers' Elvis Andrus ended an 0-for-21 drought with a career-high three doubles.
Texas recalled outfielder Ryan Rua from Triple-A Round Rock before the game, and he started in left field.
General manager Jon Daniels said Rangers OF Josh Hamilton reportedly felt good following Friday's arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. "Based on how he feels right now, we're optimistic that he has a chance to play a role down the stretch," Daniels said. Hamilton has played only two games since mid-August.
NO BIG DEAL
Texas LHP Cole Hamels was pushed back in the rotation so he can open a four-game series against Houston. "To me, it doesn't matter who I'm playing against," Hamels said. "I'm just here to comply and be the best player than I can, best pitcher that I can, and to help the team win games."
Athletics: OF Billy Burns (groin) missed his second consecutive game, and manager Bob Melvin indicated Burns will probably miss Sunday's series finale.
Rangers: OF Leonys Martin (hand) could be used for pinch-running or possibly as a late-inning defensive replacement soon but hasn't yet taken batting practice.
Athletics: Oakland has won all four games started by LHP Felix Doubront (3-1), acquired from Toronto on July 31.
Rangers: RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-5) won his first two starts after he was called up in late May, including a shutout of Kansas City, but has since had five losses and two no-decisions.