OAKLAND, Calif. -- Mark Kotsay's troublesome back screams at him when he sprints through the outfield or takes a swing. Right now, he plans to play through the pain.
The Oakland Athletics are in a pennant race, and the center fielder has never gone beyond the regular season in the big leagues.
Kotsay hit a go-ahead, three-run double and matched his career high with four RBI, Frank Thomas homered for the second day in a row and the A's avoided a three-game sweep with a 9-6 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
Kotsay took the field still nursing spasms in his upper back that kept him out Tuesday.
"I'm putting myself out there with duct tape. We've got 20-something games left and know how important they are," he said. "This is the stretch run. Not being to the postseason in my ninth season, I'm definitely doing everything to get on the field and trying to help contribute."
Joe Blanton (15-10) won for the fourth time in five starts. After allowing a leadoff single to Gary Matthews Jr. in the first, he struck out the side for the first three of his four strikeouts in six innings.
Mark Teixeira homered twice and drove in five runs for the Rangers, who couldn't hold the early lead they gave Vicente Padilla. Teixeira hit a three-run homer in the third and a two-run shot the next inning for his 14th career multihomer game and third this year. Ian Kinsler added an RBI double.
"I'm swinging at better pitches," Teixeira said. "I think earlier in the season I was trying to do too much and I got outside my zone."
Thomas homered for the second consecutive day, giving the Big Hurt career homer No. 480 and his 32nd in his comeback season after two injury-shortened years with the White Sox. Jason Kendall had three hits with an RBI double and reached base four times for the A's, who also received RBI from Milton Bradley, Nick Swisher and Mark Ellis.
Kotsay drove in four runs in a game for the eighth time and first since June 12, 2005, at Atlanta.
The first-place A's, who led the division by 8½ games last Saturday, rallied with a six-run sixth -- three runs against loser Josh Rupe (0-1) -- to stay 5½ games ahead of Los Angeles in the AL West. Oakland still must face the Angels seven times over final 10 games -- closing the season with four in Anaheim.
"It was huge because we were down and had lost two in a row to these guys," said Justin Duchscherer, who pitched two innings for his fifth consecutive save and eighth in 10 chances overall. "And Anaheim's winning. This keeps us 5½ up."
Blanton, a 12-game winner as a rookie last season, matched his season high by allowing 11 hits but didn't walk a batter for the second time in four starts. The A's expect closer Huston Street, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, to come off the disabled list from a groin injury Friday at Tampa Bay.
Thomas connected for a solo shot leading off the fourth, his 12th homer and 38th RBI over his last 40 games. The A's would love to bring Thomas back next season -- though they know it will cost them a lot more than the $500,000 base salary they gave him this season. Thomas is on pace to make the entire $2.6 million in performance bonuses in this year's contract.
After Kotsay's double in the sixth, Bradley singled in a run to cap the inning.
"We just got a snowball on us there," Texas manager Buck Showalter said. "We had some poor pitch selection in some bad places. That's a bad combination."
Michael Young had three hits after going 4-for-5 in Tuesday night's 5-4 win and he is 12 shy of reaching the 200-hit mark for the fourth straight season.
The A's lost the season series to Texas for the first time since 2001, 10-9.
Duchscherer hasn't walked a batter in his last 16 outings. ... Oakland's Chad Gaudin retired one out in the seventh and has not allowed a run in 20 1/3 innings over 20 outings since the All-Star break. ... Blanton is 7-2 in 10 starts since the All-Star break. He has faced Texas at home only twice in nine career appearances, eight starts. ... CF Kotsay returned to the A's lineup after sitting out Tuesday's game with spasms in his upper back. ... Former pitcher Vida Blue signed autographs near the field before the game. The six-time All-Star played most of his 17 major league seasons with the A's and San Francisco Giants.