ANGELS NEAR PENNANT

BY: Richard W. Humphrey

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Los Angeles Angels arrived this week with the best record in baseball, and they left town with an even better one as they swept the Rangers in a three game set. They have all but mathematically clinched the West Division championship, as they headed to Anaheim for their final home stand of the season with a 10 game lead over second place Oakland and a magic number of seven over the A’ and six over Seattle. (Houston and Texas have already been eliminated.)

It’s an amazing turnaround, as they trailed the Athletics by four games in the middle of August. Playing the Rangers hasn’t hurt. They have dominated the season series 13-3 with three more games to be played in Anaheim next weekend. The Rangers beat the Halos just once this year in ten Arlington games.

Los Angeles took the series opening game 9-3. Colby Lewis continued to make his bid to be in the Rangers’ 2015 starring rotation by pitching seven innings plus a batter and allowing three runs, two of which were earned, on five hits and no walks. He struck out four. One of those five hits was a home run off the bat of Kole Calhoun in the first inning, his 15th of the season.

Texas trailed 2-1 going into the eighth inning, and Lewis departed after giving up a lead-off single. The bullpen was terrible, as the Angels exploded for seven runs in the inning to put the game away. Mike Trout’s triple was the big hit.

Lewis (9-13) was charged with the loss, while Hector Santiago (5-7) was the winning pitcher. Adrian Beltre had three hits for Texas including his 18th home run.

Lewis is 3-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. Sadly, three wins ties him for the team lead in wins in that span.

The Angels ran up a similar score in game two, beating Texas 8-1. Los Angeles took an early lead with two first inning runs, when Albert Pujols tripled home Trout and later scored on Howie Kendrick’s single. Nick Tepesch (4-10) started and took the loss. He gave up three runs on 10 hits in 4-2/3rds innings.

The Angels finished strong by scoring in each of the final three innings to finish off the Rangers. Matt Shoemaker was the Angels’ starting and winning pitcher. He allowed the Rangers’ run on seven hits over 6-2/3rds innings. He earned his 15th win, a new Angels’ rookie record, against four losses.

The Rangers’ offense was puny again. They had nine hits on the night – all singles.

Game three was a bullpen game for the Angels, as they have been unable to find a consistent starting pitcher to replace the injured Garrett Richards. Thanks to September’s expanded rosters, Los Angeles used eight pitchers, with only two tossing more than an inning. They scored early with two runs in each of the first and second innings off Ranger starter Nick Martinez. They scored three runs late with one in the seventh and two in the eighth, to walk away with a 7-3 win to clinch the sweep.

Martinez (3-11) took the loss. He completed six innings, allowing the four runs, only two of which were earned, on four hits. Four relievers followed Martinez, with three of them allowing a run. Mike Morin (4-3), the fifth of the Angels’ eight pitchers, was credited with the win. Leonys Martin (seven) and J. P. Arencibia (nine) hit solo home runs to account for 2/3rds of the Rangers scoring.

Texas has now lost six of seven games on this home stand, and 11 of their last 12. They are a season high 37 games out of first place and 38 games under .500. At this point, a 100 loss season appears unavoidable as they have 92 losses with 16 games to play. Texas has all but wrapped up the worst record in baseball (and the number one pick in next season’s June Amateur Draft) as they are five wins behind Arizona and Colorado for the honor.

The Braves now come to town to complete inter-league play this weekend. Atlanta is all but eliminated from the National League East race as they trail Washington by 8.5 games. However, they are in the thick of the Wild Card race. They trail Pittsburgh by two games for the second Wild Card playoff berth. This weekend’s games will be the latest dates ever for the Rangers to play inter-league games. Texas is 6-9 all time verses the Braves. The announced starting pitchers for Texas are Derek Holland (1-0), Scott Baker (3-4), and Colby Lewis (9-13).

NOTABLE:

* Rangers’ coach Bobby Jones received the Bronze Star for his service in the Viet Nam War in Patriot Day ceremonies prior to Thursday’s game.

* The Rangers have initially assigned pitchers Lisaverto Bonilla, Sam Wolff, Josh McElwee and Cody Kendall along with catcher Pat Cantwell and ourtifielder Nick Williams to the Arizona Fall League, which begins play on October 6. The AFL is a developmental league for elite prospects.

* Guilder Rodriguez made his Major League debut on Tuesday, which brought the total number of players used by the Rangers this season to 64, a new Major League record. He was also the 16th rookie to be used by the Rangers this season. He was 31 years, 47 days old on Tuesday, the oldest position player to make his Major League debut in Ranger history.

* Six of the Rangers’ eight position players in Tuesday’s starting lineup were rookies, the first time since 1983 to have as many as six in the starting lineup.

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