Matt Garza hasn’t been the pitcher the Texas Rangers thought they were getting since winning his first two starts in July.

There had been flashes even victories along the way but something had been missing.

His mechanics weren’t that far off nor was the command of his pitches.

Garza it turns out had Nuke LaLoosh syndrome. He was thinking too much and it was hurting the team.

So Garza cleared his mind and went back to what has allowed him to flourish in big-game situations and become the pitcher the Rangers coveted for the past three seasons before finally acquiring him.

That Garza showed up Saturday night for a team playing with no margin for error.

Garza took a shutout into the ninth inning and Elvis Andrus drove in a run and scored another as the Rangers beat Kansas City 3-1 at a sold-out Kauffman Stadium and kept pace in the American League wild-card standings.

“It felt good just to get back to being me” Garza said. “I’ve been trying to do too many things and I’ve just got to keep it simple. That’s who I am. I just went out there with a game plan of attack and trust my stuff and let’s go.

“It’s a good win. It keeps us right there in the hunt. It looks like it’s going to be a brawl right down to the end.”

Tampa Bay leads the wild-card race by a half-game. Cleveland is another half-game ahead of the Rangers whose chances at winning the AL West are all but over.

They have to win each of their remaining eight games and Oakland has to lose all seven it has remaining. The A’s can clinch as early as Sunday.

The Rangers have won three of the past five games yet haven’t pieced together a winning streak this month. But they are sensing that they have a good run left in them.

“Play and pitch the way we did tonight I think we’re going to have a chance” Andrus said. “We have to go out there with that mentality and go out there and take it. We have the future in our hands right now.”

Garza commanded his fastball as well as he has since joining the Rangers to keep Royals hitters at bay. The effort was his best since his Rangers debut July 24 when he allowed one unearned run in 71/3 innings and he won for the first time since beating Houston on Aug. 19.

Garza who allowed just five hits and struck out five started the ninth inning at only 93 pitches but Eric Hosmer connected for an opposite-field homer to spoil the shutout bid. Joe Nathan entered and retired the next three hitters to register his 40th save of the season.