Rangers Get it Done to Beat Angels
Juan Rivera walks off the field while Rangers players celebrate behind him after a bases-loaded double play ended the game, a 3-2 loss for the Angels. (Los Angeles Times)
They did not care that two of their runs scored on weak ground balls that barely reached the outfield grass, or that they nearly blew the game in the ninth inning because of an error and some carelessness on the part of their closer.
When you've lost five games in a row, scoring a grand total of one run in those games, and you're on the verge of irrelevancy in the American League West race, victories, especially against the team you're chasing, are all that matter.
So the Rangers were not about to apologize after Hank Blalock ended a tie with a home run in the sixth inning and Frank Francisco escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the ninth to preserve a 3-2 victory over the Angels at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Though the Rangers are barely breathing, they are still alive, now 6 1/2 games behind the Angels with five of their 15 remaining games against their division rivals. The Angels' magic number to clinch the West remains at nine.
"It was a great effort by us today," Blalock said. "That was as much of a must-win game as we've had all year."
Blalock nearly let it slip away in the ninth when, after Torii Hunter's one-out single, he booted Kendry Morales' potential double-play grounder for an error, allowing the Angels to put runners on first base and second base.
Reggie Willits ran for Morales, and Hunter and Willits got such good jumps against Francisco, they were able to pull off a double steal with no throw from catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
Juan Rivera was walked intentionally to load the bases, and Francisco fell behind Howie Kendrick, the Angels' hottest hitter with a .488 average over his previous 13 games, with three balls.
Kendrick took two strikes -- he had the green light on 3 and 1 but did not pull the trigger -- and grounded a full-count pitch up the middle. Shortstop Elvis Andrus fielded the ball, tapped second with his foot and threw to first to complete the game-ending double play.
"Howie got jammed a bit on that last pitch, but give Francisco credit," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He came back from a big hole and got the ground ball he needed."
Scott Feldman, a mediocre long reliever in 2006 and 2007 and a starter who was 6-8 with a 5.29 earned-run average in 2008, gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings to gain the win to improve to 17-5 with a 3.62 ERA.
"Feldman has reinvented himself," Scioscia said. "He tried to be a sidearm guy a few years ago, and now he throws over the top. He's added a little cut fastball, which helps him against left-handers, and he's getting good movement on his fastball."
Jered Weaver took the loss, giving up three runs and five hits in six innings to fall to 15-7 with a 3.87 ERA, but the right-hander reached the 200-inning mark for the first time, and he has thrown six innings or more in 23 of 31 starts this season.
"He's thrown quality innings for us in almost every start," Scioscia said. "Even on a night like tonight, when he didn't have his best stuff, he was able to mix and match, hit his spots and give us a chance to win."
Texas took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Nelson Cruz walked, stole second and scored on Chris Davis' dribbler that rolled under the bare hand of charging shortstop Maicer Izturis for an infield double.
The Angels tied it in the fourth on Izturis' walk, Vladimir Guerrero's single and Hunter's run-scoring single to left field and went ahead, 2-1, in the fifth on a home run to right-center field by Mike Napoli, who was in a five-for-58 (.086) slump.
Napoli's first home run since Aug. 21 gave him 61 as an Angels catcher, tying Bengie Molina and Lance Parrish for the club record for home runs by a catcher.
The Rangers tied it in the fifth inning when Rodriguez singled with one out, took second on Julio Borbon's sacrifice bunt and scored on Andrus' grounder single that nicked off third baseman Chone Figgins' glove and caromed past Izturis.
Had Figgins not gotten a glove on the ball, Izturis would have knocked it down and held Rodriguez at third, and the inning would have ended with David Murphy's groundout -- and no Rangers run.
"Some freak things happened out there," Scioscia said.