BY: Richard W. Humphrey

Texas took three out of four In Anaheim from the Angels to push their record one game over .500 at 64-63. It’s the first time the Rangers’ record has been over .500 since June 27. The Rangers distant hope of catching Houston is still alive as the Astros lost two of three to Washington, such that the Rangers cut their lead by 1.5 games to a deficit of 13 games. The Rangers however picked up valuable ground in the Wild Card race and now trail by just one game for the second Wild Card berth.

Thursday’s series finale was critical. Texas took two of the first three games giving them a chance to win the series. A loss Thursday would have split the series such that the Rangers would have picked up no ground on the Angels and would have four fewer games to catch them. L. A. came into the series as the second Wild Card team and one of the hotter teams in the league, so the Rangers’ series win is all the more impressive.

Brett Nicholas doubled in the third inning for the Rangers’ first hit in game four. Drew Robinson followed with a home run. Mike Napoli hit his 27th home run, a solo shot an inning later, to wrap up the Rangers’ scoring on the night.

A suddenly revived Martin Perez made three runs look big as he shut out the Angels for seven innings. He scattered seven hits, but walked none. He’s 9-10 for the season. It was Perez’s fourth straight win in four starts since getting knocked around by Minnesota on August 4. His ERA is 3.00 in those starts.

The Rangers’ bullpen was a mess Thursday after tossing 10-1/3rd innings in the first three games. Ranger manager Jeff Banister turned to veteran Jason Grilli and rookie Ricardo Rodriguez (in that order) to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. They came through in style allowing no runs on no hits. Rodriguez earned his first Major League save.

Cole Hamels opened the series with a well pitched game. Adrain Beltre drove home a run with a ground out in the first inning, and came back with a three run home run in the third inning to stake Hamels to a 5-1 lead. Hamels surrendered just three hits over seven innings while holding the Angels to two runs.

The scary bullpen was again scary. Jose LeClerc retired two batters, one by a strikeout, but walked three in the eighth inning. Alex Claudio was summoned to get the final out without the Angels scoring. Claudio came back out in the ninth and gave up a lead-off single. He retired the next two batters before Mike Trout cut the Ranger lead to 5-3 with a run scoring single. Albert Pujols followed as the tying run, but Albert Pujols is no longer the feared Albert Pujols that played for the Cardinals. He grounded out to first base to end the game. It was Claudio’s seventh save.

Tuesday was Tyson Ross’s last start for a while. He again had control issues walking four batters and allowing seven hits as exactly half of the 22 batters he faced reached base. He could not complete the fourth inning and amazingly was charged with just three runs. The Rangers later announced that Ross was moving to the bullpen and that Nick Martinez would start in Ross’s slot on Sunday.

The Angels pillaged the Ranger bullpen after Ross left to win 10-1.

Texas came back Wednesday night to win in extra innings. The Rangers scored a run in each of the first four innings. Andrew Cashner gave up three runs in the third inning and one more in the fifth to tie the game at four. He completed six innings and did not get a decision. Ricardo Rodriguez shut down the Angels in the seventh, while Claudio took care of them in the eighth and ninth innings.

However, the Angel pitchers were just as stingy about giving up runs. The game was still tied at four after nine innings. The Rangers broke the ice in the 10th. Elvis Andrus led off with a single that was coupled with a throwing error to put him on second base. A groundout moved him to third base. Two walks, one intentional, followed to load the bases. A double play would have gotten the Angels out of the inning unharmed, but Rougned Odor countered with a sacrifice fly. Two singles followed to drive in two more runs, enlarging the Rangers’ lead to 7-4.

The game wasn’t over though. Jose LeClerc took over for Claudio on the mound in the bottom of the 10th inning and promptly walked the first two batters. Tony Barnette was summoned to face the tying run. He immediately coaxed a double play ground ball from Pujols. A single followed to plate a run, but Barnette got Andrelton Simmons to fly out to end the game. 7-5 was the final score.

The road trip continues with three games in Oakland this weekend. The Rangers are 6-3 so far this season against the A’s. It’s “Players Weekend” thoughout Major League baseball. Teams will be wearing special jerseys with names on the back chosen by players. The Texas jerseys are powder blue and red.

INJURIES: Neither Matt Bush nor Joey Gallo made the trip west with the team after they collided in last Sunday’s game. Bush was diagnosed with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out of action for two weeks. He was placed on the disabled list on Monday. Gallo was placed on the seven-day concussion list on Tuesday. He did fly to Anaheim Wednesday to rejoin the team and is expected to be activated next Tuesday in Houston. Jake Diekman will be ready to join the Rangers soon. He has not been scored upon in three minor league rehab outings, allowing no hits. Four of the nine outs have been strikeouts.


* Adrian Beltre had four hits in the series, bringing his career total to 3,027. He passed Lou Brock for 26th place on the all time list. The next player to catch is Rod Carew at 3,053. On Wednesday, Beltre hit two home runs, his 32nd career multi-home run game.

* Texas hit six home runs in the series to bring their total for the season to 200, which leads the Major Leagues. The Rangers have nine players that have hit at least 15 home runs.

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