ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington wasn't looking for a home run. If so, he would have had Lance Berkman pinch-hitting in the bottom of the ninth inning on Thursday night.
Instead, he sent Jurickson Profar to the plate even though Berkman had been on deck when Craig Gentry struck out to end the eighth.
"I wasn't looking for a home run," Washington said. "I was looking for somebody to get on base, so I sent up Profar. He gave me the opposite of what I wanted, but it was huge."
Profar smashed a 1-1 fastball over the right-field wall for a walk-off home run that gave the Rangers a 6-5 victory over the Angels at the Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers desperately needed this one as they are still looking outside for help going into the final weekend of the regular season. But a loss would have been devastating.
"We're alive for another day," pitcher Matt Garza said. "We're trying to get in there, and it doesn't matter how we do it."
The win came at the same time the Rays beat the Yankees and the Indians held off a ninth-inning rally by the Twins in Minnesota. So the Rangers remain two games behind the Rays and one game behind the Indians in the Wild Card race with three left to play against the Angels. The Indians have three more with the Twins in Minnesota, and the Rays open a three-game series with the Blue Jays on Friday in Toronto.
"We've got to win again tomorrow," winning pitcher Joe Nathan said. "We saw Minnesota put a good charge and fell a little short. But I like the way they finished that game. For us, we have to continue to take care of business at this stadium ... come in tomorrow with the same intensity and the same focus and keep the pressure on."
The Rangers drew 26,198 fans on Thursday, giving them a season total of 3,019,430. It's the second straight season the Rangers have drawn over 3 million fans, and those who were there on Thursday saw a terrific finish.
The Angels had the go-ahead run at third with one out in the top of the ninth, but Nathan struck out Kole Calhoun and Mark Trumbo to end the threat. Right-hander Michael Kohn -- the Angels' sixth pitcher on the night -- took over in the bottom of the inning and Profar, pinch-hitting in the designated-hitter spot, delivered a crushing blow.
"I was just trying to have a good at-bat, get on base," Profar said. "I made a perfect swing, it went out."
Profar, at 20 years and 218 days, is the youngest player to hit a walk-off home run since Miguel Cabrera (20 years, 63 days) with the Marlins in 2003. He was rewarded with the traditional beer shower in the clubhouse afterward even though he's slightly underage.
"He didn't drink it, he wore it," Nathan said. "His clothes aren't underage."
"It's great to see someone pick up our slack," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We had plenty of opportunities, myself, a couple other guys that couldn't come through, and he came through with a big clutch hit. It doesn't matter what kind of win, however we can win we're going to take it. We have no tomorrow, we have to win every ballgame we can."
This is the fourth straight walk-off win for the Rangers at home against the Angels. They won three in a row on July 29-31 on home runs by Geovany Soto, Leonys Martin and Beltre. Kohn has given up the last two.
"It's definitely weird," Kohn said. "I personally haven't made pitches here, and I've gotten beat every time I've done that. I'm kind of speechless. It's kind of weird. I really don't know what to say."
The Rangers almost gave this one away, especially in the second inning with Matt Garza on the mound. They led 3-1 going into the second but made four errors that inning -- including two on one play by second baseman Ian Kinsler -- and it led to three runs.
"I was sitting there thinking that's not us," Washington said. "The bottom line, it was early and we had a chance to settle down and catch up. We had one inning that was uncharacteristic of our defense, but everyone in that dugout felt we had time to put something together."
Garza gave them time by not letting the second inning defensive lapses affect him. He responded with three scoreless innings that kept it a one-run game. Craig Gentry, who had three hits offensively, helped out with a tremendous throw to cut down Howie Kendrick trying to score from second on a single in the fifth.
"You just try to keep the team in the game for as long as you can and go as hard as you can," Garza said. "We made a couple of mistakes, but my job is to keep it in order. You just keep making pitches. They don't try to make errors just like you don't try to make bad pitches. You just keep going."
The Rangers, after blowing big chances in the fourth and fifth, went ahead in the sixth on a two-out, two-run double by Martin. But the Angels tied the game in the top of the seventh against reliever Tanner Scheppers on a triple by Calhoun and a single by Trumbo. That set up the terrific finish.
"We know what's at stake," Washington said. "We're in the fight every night, and we showed what we're made of tonight."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.