Rangers, Angels hope to stay competitive in wild-card race (Sep 15, 2017)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are running out of time in their quest to reach the postseason. The teams will try to find some momentum beginning Friday when they open a three-game series at Anaheim Stadium.

The Angels (74-72) owned a half-game lead for the second American League wild card on Sept. 5, but they dropped five of their past seven to fall three games back of the Minnesota Twins (77-69) for the final AL playoff spot.

The Rangers (72-74) have lost five of their past six and sit five games behind the Twins.

“I believe in this team,” Angels second baseman Brandon Phillips told the Orange County Register. “We’re not giving up. We can’t keep our heads down. We’ve got to go out day by day and get wins. Regardless of what everybody else is doing, we’ve got to think about ourselves and get as many wins as possible.”

Los Angeles is coming off a 5-2 loss to the visiting Astros on Thursday, as Houston took two of three in the series.

Texas dropped the final three games of a four-game home series against the Mariners, with Seattle taking the finale 10-4 on Thursday.

On the plus side for the Rangers, they are getting healthier.

Adrian Beltre was the designated hitter for Thursday, two weeks after sustaining a Grade 2 hamstring strain that initially was expected to keep him out at least four weeks. He went 1-for-3.

“I believe I’m good enough to be out there and contribute,” Beltre told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after the loss. “Obviously, the situation is not ideal for us. There’s no tomorrow. A lot of my teammates are playing injured.”

Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli has a stress reaction in his lower right leg, but he returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three games and went 0-for-2.

On Friday, Texas right-hander Nick Martinez (3-6, 5.40 ERA) will make his first start since posting an 0-3 record and 7.17 ERA over four starts in August.

Martinez has since thrown 2 2/3 innings of relief in two appearances, most recently allowing four runs and five hits in two-thirds of an inning of a 16-7 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday.

The fifth starter role was previously held by A.J. Griffin, but he was demoted to the bullpen after delivering four consecutive sub-par outings.

Martinez is 2-3 in his career against the Angels with a 2.79 ERA. Seven of his nine appearances against Los Angeles have been as a starter.

Martinez started against the Angels on April 28 and allowed three runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 6-3 loss in Arlington, Texas. Mike Trout went 2-for-3 off Martinez with a two-run homer, and he is 5-for-17 with two home runs in his career off the righty.

The Angels will turn to veteran right-hander Bud Norris (2-5, 4.25 ERA). A former starter, Norris has made all 56 appearances this season out of the bullpen, mainly as late-inning specialist. He is 2-2 with a 4.33 ERA in 10 games (three starts) against Texas, including two saves in 7 1/3 shutout innings covering five games this season.

“Hopefully, Bud will get us off on the right foot,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’ll have a bunch of guys backing him up whenever he’s done. … We’re obviously not looking for him to go five or six innings.”

Left-hander Andrew Heaney would have been in line for the start, but he left his last outing Saturday due to tightness in his throwing shoulder, which was later diagnosed as a shoulder impingement. Scioscia said Heaney is progressing but has not been scheduled to throw a bullpen session.

Heaney is 1-2 with a 7.06 ERA in five starts since returning from Tommy John surgery.