With the Los Angeles Angels needing every win they can get to stay in the playoff hunt, their ace pitcher came up with another clutch start.
Jered Weaver became the American League’s first 20-game winner, Mike Trout hit a leadoff homer and the Angels beat Texas 7-4 Friday night to prevent the Rangers from clinching a playoff berth.
Los Angeles began the day two games behind Oakland for the last wild-card spot. The Athletics, who came in trailing the first-place Rangers by four games in the AL West, were playing the Seattle Mariners.
The Angels are a league-best 25-10 since Aug. 21 to keep their postseason hopes alive, and Weaver has been a big part of that run.
Weaver (20-4) has won his last four starts overall with a 1.98 ERA in 27 1-3 innings since Sept. 13.
The lanky right-hander allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings to beat Texas for the fourth straight time this season. He is the Angels’ first 20-game winner since Bartolo Colon had 21 in 2005.
"We’re not in a pennant race without him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You look at just what he’s done virtually every start. I don’t think there’s a more consistent pitcher in our league."
Texas’ magic number remains at three to clinch its third consecutive division crown. The Rangers need one more victory to lock up a postseason spot.
The Rangers close out the season with three on the road against Oakland, but Texas would obviously prefer to have its postseason spot locked up before heading to the Bay Area.
"If you win games, everything will take care of itself," Texas manager Ron Washington said.
Trout homered on the sixth pitch of the game out to the grassy area beyond the wall in center, his fifth starting off a game since Aug. 18.
The dynamic rookie also set a club record by scoring his 125th run this season on that blast. It breaks the mark of 124 runs scored by Vladimir Guerrero in 2004.
Trout said he’s not fazed being a part of the postseason chase for the first time.
"You’ve got to be relaxed," Trout said. "There’s always going to be pressure when you play."
Dempster (12-8) dropped to 7-3 since he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 31. Two of those losses have come this month to the Angels, who have won six of seven overall.
Chris Iannetta hit a solo shot in the third for Los Angeles, and slumping outfielder Mark Trumbo had three RBI and saved at least one run with a nice catch in left.
Nelson Cruz hit a solo shot in the seventh and Adrian Beltre added a two-run homer in the eighth that brought the Rangers within 7-4.
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, right fielder Torii Hunter played Cruz’s drive off the wall and threw him out at second trying to stretch it to a double.
Ernesto Frieri pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his 22nd save in 25 chances.
Weaver had struggled on the road against the Rangers in his career. He came into the game with a 3-7 record and a 5.05 ERA lifetime in Arlington, including a loss where he gave up eight runs on May 13.
Weaver, who struck out five and walked two, was pretty much in control from the start Friday. Weaver also got some help from two nice defensive plays.
With two men on base, Trumbo made a twisting catch on the warning track of Mike Napoli’s drive to end the second.
Third baseman Alberto Callaspo leaned onto a short wall and lunged into the stands to snag Ian Kinsler’s pop in the third.
"Never did I think I’d win 20 games in the big leagues," Weaver said. "So a lot of things have to go your way in a season to get to that milestone. Guys have picked me up and done great things."
Dempster yielded seven hits and four runs in 5 2/3 innings, his third start against the Angels this season. Trout and Iannetta’s homers off Dempster gave the Angels a 2-0 lead.
Trumbo, who had been hitting .175 since Aug. 1 had an RBI double in the fourth and then added another run-scoring double with two outs in the sixth to make it 4-1.
"Solo home runs don’t beat you," Dempster said. "It’s the pitches you don’t make with two outs."
Los Angeles extended its lead to 7-1 with three runs in the seventh, which was capped by Trumbo’s RBI single.
Texas RHP Mike Adams had an MRI and was diagnosed with a mild cervical strain. Adams, who has been battling soreness near his right shoulder, said he will be sidelined indefinitely. He allowed three home runs in the eighth inning of Texas’ 9-7 victory over Oakland on Thursday. . Los Angeles DH Kendrys Morales left in the eighth with right rib soreness. Scioscia said he will be evaluated further on Saturday. . Trout also set the Angels rookie record for hits in a season with 173. Wally Joyner had the record with 172 hits in 1986. . Los Angeles righty Ervin Santana (9-12) will oppose Texas left-hander Derek Holland (11-6) on Saturday.