The Texas Rangers were in quick trouble against the Oakland Athletics.
The AL West leaders were behind for good only three batters into the game, and already back in their overworked bullpen before the end of the first inning Wednesday night.
Rookie left-hander Martin Perez made it through only eight batters for the Rangers in a 9-3 loss that cut their division lead against Oakland to three games with seven to play.
While not the best timing for the Rangers to play a game like this, center fielder Josh Hamilton said the two-time defending American League champions are not panicking.
"It is what it is," said Hamilton, who was 0-for-4 with a couple of fielding miscues. "I'm not going to give in or put my head down or start crying or collapse all over myself, and the team's not going to do that either. Come back tomorrow."
The magic number remained at five for the Rangers, who Thursday go for a split of the four-game series against Oakland before three games at home this weekend against the Los Angeles Angels. They end the regular season with three games at Oakland next week.
The Athletics will finally wrap up a stretch of 20 games over six series in six cities before ending the regular season with six games at home.
"To come out there and get these guys was the biggest series of the road trip. These are the guys we are trying to catch," Josh Reddick said. "A lot of people want to say we can get the wild card. We're trying to still win this division. ... It's definitely possible."
A's manager Bob Melvin said it was important for his team to bounce back from a 5-4 loss in the series opener at Texas, which scored in the bottom of the ninth to win that game.
"For me, it was even more important to come back and win the next day and follow it up with a good performance today," manager Bob Melvin said. "Certainly it would be nice to win tomorrow, but at this point, these two games I think were big for us."
A night after Yu Darvish was scratched from his scheduled start because of neck stiffness, and Scott Feldman and five other relievers were needed in a 10-inning loss, the Rangers were already back in their bullpen before the end of the first inning.
Wilmer Font, the third Texas pitcher, walked the only two batters he faced to start the third before Stephen Drew's two-run single made it 7-3. Brandon Moss doubled and scored on a single by Derek Norris an inning later.
Matt Harrison (17-10), the All-Star left-hander, starts for Texas in the series finale, when he will try to become the Rangers' first 18-game winner since Kenny Rogers in 2004. He faces lefty Travis Blackley (5-3).
"If we come back tomorrow and win the ballgame, they leave out of here the same way they came in," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We feel like we're going to win tomorrow. We just didn't get it done tonight."
Oakland, which had played five consecutive one-run games, led 5-0 only eight batters into the game. The A's chased Perez (1-3) before the rookie left-hander got all the way through the batting order one time.
Rookie righty Jarrod Parker (12-8) won his third consecutive decision over four starts. He struck out eight in six innings, and his 109 pitches were his most since 111 on June 4, when he threw eight scoreless innings and allowed only one hit against the Rangers in Oakland.
Parker walked leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler in the first before Elvis Andrus doubled off the left-center field wall. Michael Young and David Murphy had consecutive singles to start the second, scoring on a fielder's choice grounder by Mitch Moreland and a sacrifice fly by Andrus that made it 5-3.
After Yoenis Cespedes' one-out triple in the first, the A's had three consecutive singles. The last was Josh Donaldson's grounder up the middle that then rolled under the glove of Hamilton for a two-base error, making it 4-0. Norris tripled to left-center on a liner Hamilton appeared to misplay and let get over his head.
Drew had four of Oakland's 16 hits, including a double leading off the game before scoring on Cespedes' triple.
NOTES: Oakland is 51-25 since the start of July, the best record in the majors over that span. ... Oakland's 11 strikeouts gave it 1,333 for the season, breaking the AL record for the most in a season. The 2007 Tampa Bay Rays had 1,324. ... The A's are 8-7 against Texas this season. ... The start by Perez was the shortest for a Ranger since July 2, 2011, when Derek Holland also got only two outs facing eight batters against Florida. ... Perez got his first major league victory on June 30, against the A's at Rangers Ballpark. ... Yoshinori Tateyama struck out four in 2 1-3 innings, and was the only Rangers pitcher who didn't allow a base runner. ... The only Oakland starter without a hit was No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington. Reddick ended a career-long 0-for-30 slump with singles in the seventh and ninth innings.