BY:  Richard W. Humphrey

Texas beat Los Angeles Sunday night 9-5 to extend their lead in the West to three games and cut the “magic number” to clinch the West Division title to 26.  The win also clinched the series with the Angels for Texas two games to one.  It was a game that was played with tremendous intensity on both sides, a game played with almost desperation on both sides.  40,018 fans and ESPN’s national television audience witnessed a marvelous performance by both teams.

Colby Lewis started for Texas and was basically awful.  He gave up a run in the first; such that for the fifth time in six games, Texas came to bat for the first time in the game already behind on the scoreboard.  Lewis allowed another in the second and two more in the third, as Texas fell behind 4-1, with the lone run coming on a Yorvit Torrealba home run.  Included in LA’s scoring was a solo home run to Howie Kendrick to pad Lewis’s league leading total of home runs allowed to 31.

Texas battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth with a rally that featured Josh Hamilton’s 18th home run.  The tie proved to be short lived though, as the Angels re-claimed the lead in the fifth.  Lewis left after six innings, allowing the five runs on eight hits.  He struck out three and walked one.  His ERA is now up to 4.19.

This outing continued a trend of poor starts at home for Lewis.  His record is 7-4, 2.71 on the road; but after Sunday’s outing, he is 4-5. 5.70 at home.  21 of the 31 home runs Lewis has allowed have been in Arlington, where he has more walks and fewer strikeouts in approximately the same number of innings pitched on the road.

Jered Weaver started for Los Angeles.  Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia juggled his starting rotation, bringing back Ervin Santana on Saturday and Weaver on three days rest for the first time in their careers.  Santana was oustanding Saturday, and Weaver was better than his final numbers on Sunday.  He got through six innings with the 5-4 lead, but he looked gassed after throwing 100 pitches in triple digit temperatures on short rest.  Scioscia surprisingly brought him back out to start the seventh.  Weaver needed only three pitches to three batters, none of which were retired, to get knocked out of the game.  Sending Weaver out in the seventh was undoubtedly a statement by Scioscia that he simply did not trust his bullpen to get nine outs to secure the win.

Texas ended up taking the lead for the first time and for good with four runs in the seventh, three of which were charged to Weaver (15-7) , who took the loss.  The Rangers added an insurance run in the eighth to make the score 9-5, which was the final.  Darren Oliver (5-5) was the winning pitcher in relief after pitching a scoreless seventh.  Mike Adams pitched a marvelous eighth inning for Texas.  He was dominating in retiring the Angels’ three, four and five hitters in the batting order, two by strikeout.  Neftali Feliz needed 13 pitches to set down the final three Angels in the ninth.

The offensive force for Texas was Hamilton.  He had three hits on the evening.  Included was the fourth inning two-run home run that tied the game, and his seventh inning single that plated the go ahead run.  The reigning American League MVP got the single off left-handed reliever Scott Downs, one of the better middle relievers in the game.  Big hits at important times in the game.

Unfortunately, not all the news was not good for Ranger fans.  The Rangers’ batting order is already short Adrian Beltre’s bat with a hamstring injury.  Nelson Cruz will likely join him on the disabled list after pulling up lame clutching his hamstring in the sixth inning running out a double.  Cruz has always been a streaky hitter, and appeared to be embarking on a hot streak with seven hits in this three game series, before leaving Sunday’s game with the injury.

The Angels have just two more off days this season.  They departed after Sunday’s game to open a series in Seattle Monday night.  Texas has four more off days, one of which is Monday.  The schedule does not let up on the Rangers though.  They host Tampa Bay in a three game series that begins Tuesday.  The Rays have won four games in a row, and are on the verge of putting some heat on the Yankees for the American League’s Wild Card playoff slot.  The Rays series concludes the home stand, and the Rangers then go on the road for three games in Boston next weekend and three more in Tampa next week before returning home September 9.

NOTES: The Rangers with fears about the mounting innings pitched totals of Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Derek Holland plan to start Scott Feldman in Tuesday’s opener in what would have been Harrison’s scheduled start.  Harrison will return five games later.  Feldman’s start will be just the fourth this season by a Ranger other than the opening day starting five.

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