In another day — maybe two — the often inconsistent Rangers offense could welcome back No. 3 hitter Nelson Cruz.

There is just one slight problem: There might not be a vacancy in that particular slot.

The final-week rush extended to six straight wins Saturday as the Rangers raced to beat the haggard Los Angeles Angels 7-4 just ahead of a line of thunderstorms. As usual it involved air-tight work by the bullpen and athletic No. 3 hitter Alex Rios stirring up the offense.

The win moved the Rangers into a tie with Tampa Bay which lost for the second straight day for the second wild-card spot. If the Rangers win Sunday they will guarantee themselves at least a tiebreaker-game berth either against Tampa Bay in Arlington on Monday or a Tuesday game in Arlington against the loser of a Monday Tampa Bay-Cleveland game.

It would also make Cruz eligible to return from his 50-game suspension and while GM Jon Daniels isn’t commenting on the situation players said they expect Cruz to be activated.

“We’re not feeling ourselves” manager Ron Washington said. “We know we’ve got another game to play and we certainly know who our opponents are. We’ll come out and we’ll try to keep our intensity up and we’ll do whatever we have to do out there and hopefully we can come away with another win.”

The work of the bullpen which pitched 41/3 scoreless innings in relief of Derek Holland on Saturday has been well-documented. Rios’ emerging presence in a more opportunistic offense — not so much.
Rios was 1-for-3. Each of his first three plate appearances was critical. His first at-bat a hard smash to third — and through the legs of Austin Romine — brought the Rangers’ first run home after the Angels had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. It was the first of five Angels’ errors on the day.

Rios’ second at-bat ended in a sacrifice fly that drove home the final run in a four-run third inning. After LA scored twice to draw within a run in the top of the fifth Rios started the bottom of the inning with a double and scored the first of two Rangers runs in the inning on an A.J. Pierzynski single.

For the first six games of the homestand Rios was 8-for-22 (.364) with a cycle three steals six runs scored and eight RBIs.