Even Texas manager Ron Washington felt a little sympathy for the Angels when starter Garrett Richards limped off the mound after just 19 pitches.
That didn’t stop his Rangers from battering Richards’ replacements in another win over their only remaining competitors for the AL West title.
Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli hit back-to-back homers and Michael Young added a two-run single during a six-run fifth inning, as streaking Texas extended its AL West lead over Los Angeles with an 8-4 victory Monday night.
Ian Kinsler had four hits and scored three runs, and Josh Hamilton added an RBI double in Texas’ fourth straight win. Alexi Ogando (12-5) pitched eight-hit ball into the seventh inning for the Rangers (70-52), who have won nine of 11 while taking a five-game lead over Los Angeles (65-57) in their four-team division.
The Angels, who committed three errors and struggled again on offense, will face the Rangers nine more times over the clubs’ final 40 games, including the rest of this four-game series. Texas could all but punch its playoff ticket with a strong showing, but Washington isn’t thinking about October just yet.
”The only thing that’s important is we got the one tonight, and we’ve got one tomorrow,” Washington said. ”We can’t get ahead of ourselves.”
The Angels, who opened a key nine-game homestand with their fifth loss in six games, lost Richards to a strained groin muscle in the first inning of his second major league start. Bobby Cassevah (1-1) gave up one run while pitching 2 2/3 innings in relief of Richards, but the right-hander’s replacements couldn’t hold down Texas in its impressive fifth inning.
Young and Mitch Moreland had three hits apiece for the Rangers, who took an 8-1 lead in the fifth. Ogando yielded four runs while becoming the first 12-game winner this season for Texas, which improved to a season-best 18 games over .500 with the defending AL champions’ second-best record after 122 games in franchise history.
Russell Branyan chased Ogando with his second pinch-hit homer in three games, but the Rangers’ Dominican right-hander still improved to 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA against the Angels this season.
”We showed all aspects of our game tonight,” Kinsler said. ”Ogando threw well, only really made one mistake, and then offensively we had that one big inning we know we’re capable of having.”
Vernon Wells and Maicer Izturis drove in runs as the Angels stumbled home after losing 2 1/2 games in the AL West race on the road last week.
Although Jered Weaver’s six-game suspension and Joel Pineiro’s woes hurt Los Angeles last week, offense is undoing the Angels. Even with Torii Hunter hitting around .450 in August, Los Angeles has the majors’ worst batting average since the All-Star break, hitting just .219 entering this key homestand for its playoff hopes.
”We don’t want to think like that,” Hunter said. ”I don’t even like to talk about that, actually. Most of these guys are young. We have a lot of young guys on the squad, and they’ve never been in a pennant race, so you have to go and talk to them and try to keep them upbeat and not let them get caught up in the hype of everything.”
Richards gave up a run and threw just 19 pitches before limping off the mound with a strained muscle near his right groin. The Angels recalled the hard-throwing rookie from nearby Riverside last week to replace the struggling Pineiro. He lost his major league debut at Yankee Stadium before failing to get out of the first inning at Angel Stadium.
Texas went up 3-1 in the fifth when Hisanori Takahashi fielded a sacrifice bunt and threw it past third base and into the outfield, allowing Moreland to score.
”He was trying to make something happen,” catcher Bobby Wilson said of Takahashi’s throwing error. ”So I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse has a problem with guys trying to make plays and being aggressive. That’s our style of baseball. It just didn’t work out.”
After Young drove in two runs, Cruz put his 26th homer down the left-field line against Rich Thompson, and Napoli followed with his 19th homer to center.
Cruz left the game after the seventh inning with tightness in his left quadriceps, but felt much better in the clubhouse. He plans to go through warmups Tuesday before deciding whether to play.
”We’ve got to come (this week) determined to win,” Cruz said. ”We know it’s important to come out here and win the series.”
NOTES: Hunter extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a second-inning single and scored on Wells’ double. … The Angels might regret using four relievers on Tuesday night, when inconsistent rookie Tyler Chatwood faces Derek Holland in the second game of the four-game series. Manager Mike Scioscia expects the Angels to recall two pitchers from the minors before Tuesday night’s game. … Before Branyan’s two pinch-hit homers in the past five days, the Angels hadn’t hit a pinch-hit homer since September 2009. … Texas DH Yorvit Torrealba’s 12-game hitting streak ended.