Although the Texas Rangers are cruising toward another playoff berth, an embarrassing loss to a rival and a curious malady for slugger Josh Hamilton should remind the defending AL champions it’s far too soon to get comfortable.
Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of six-hit ball for his 100th win, Chris Iannetta had a two-run single and scored on a wild pitch during a crazy eight-run rally in the fourth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels moved up in the AL postseason race with an 11-3 victory Tuesday night.
Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler hit third-inning homers in the opener of the Rangers’ penultimate road trip, but everything went askew in the fourth.
Hamilton left with sinus trouble that affected his vision, and Ryan Dempster got chased from the shortest start of his Rangers tenure while the Angels sent 12 batters to the plate. Even young reliever Tanner Scheppers limped off the field after a collision with Iannetta while trying to cover home plate after the Orange County native’s wild pitch.
”It got out of control,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. ”We just couldn’t get any outs. Dempster struggled from the beginning. It was a fight the whole time, and in that fourth inning, they just took the game away from us.”
Napoli had two hits in another big game against his former teammates, but Weaver and two relievers largely shut down the majors’ most potent offense.
Weaver (18-4) got a huge cushion from his teammates to ease into a tie with Tampa Bay’s David Price for the AL lead in wins.
”It’s an honor to do it all in an Angels uniform,” said Weaver, a Los Angeles-area native. ”I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hopefully these fans see 200 more, but I don’t know. We’ll see what happens.”
What’s happening on the scoreboards is more interesting to Weaver and his teammates at the moment.
Erick Aybar had three hits and scored two runs for the Angels (81-67), who moved within 3 1/2 games of wild card-leading Oakland with their 15th win in 20 games after the Athletics (84-63) lost at Detroit. Los Angeles also kept pressure on Baltimore, which sits in second place in the AL wild-card standings.
”We’re at the point in the year when we just have to win,” Iannetta said. ”We need to find a way. Texas, Oakland, Baltimore, they’re all in the drivers’ seat, but we’ve been on a real good three-week stretch. We just have to keep working.”
Los Angeles trimmed its deficit behind the AL West-leading Rangers (87-60) to 6 1/2 games, but the Angels are much more focused on making a late wild-card push – and with a few more innings like the fourth, they might have an outside shot.
Los Angeles carved up three pitchers, including Dempster, during its biggest rally in nearly two months.
With eight Angels scoring a run, they had no trouble producing offense in the absence of Albert Pujols, who missed the game to be with his wife and their newborn daughter. The Angels expect Pujols to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
Dempster (6-2) was charged with five runs and six hits in 3 1-3 innings, ending his five-start winning streak with his second rough outing against the Angels. The veteran has yielded 13 earned runs to Los Angeles and just 15 to the rest of the AL during his nine starts for Texas.
”I could have done a better job of maybe finishing off guys when I got ahead of them,” Dempster said. ”I was actually missing down more than up. That’s a rarity.”
Kinsler ended an 0-for-11 skid with just his second homer in 17 games, but the Angels got rolling in the fourth. After Vernon Wells and Alberto Callaspo reached, Iannetta cracked a one-out single off the bottom of the right-field wall before Mike Trout walked to chase Dempster.
Scheppers then threw two pitches: He hit Aybar with the first to load the bases, and put the second into the backstop for a wild pitch. Iannetta made contact with Scheppers’ leg on his slide, leaving Scheppers on the ground in agony while Napoli’s throw hit home plate umpire Jim Wolf, allowing Trout to score on a throwing error.
Scheppers left with a bruised right knee, but the Angels didn’t let up against Mark Lowe.
Aybar scored on Kendrys Morales’ single, a tapper that traveled about 15 feet up the third-base line. Wells and Callaspo then drove in runs before Mark Trumbo made his second out of the inning.
”It was strange and bizarre,” Michael Young said. ”There were definitely strange things that happened that inning, but the bottom line was that they had some good at-bats and found a way to score. It doesn’t matter how it happened. They scored eight.”
NOTES: Hamilton was replaced by Leonys Martin on defense in the bottom of the fourth. The major league leader with 42 homers walked and grounded out in his two at-bats. … Weaver has never lost a decision to Texas at Angel Stadium, going 9-0. … RHP Wilmer Font made his major league debut for Texas in the sixth, pitching a scoreless inning.