Upton 2 HRs, Angels gain in wild-card race, beat Rangers 2-0 (Sep 16, 2017)

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Parker Bridwell is greeted at the dugout after leaving the baseball game against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Justin Upton changed teams, but that hasn’t slowed his groove. It’s followed him from Detroit to Anaheim.

Upton hit two home runs, Parker Bridwell outpitched Cole Hamels and the Angels moved up in the AL wild-card race, beating the Texas Rangers 2-0 on Saturday night.

Los Angeles closed within one game of Minnesota for the second wild-card spot. The victory also prevented Houston from clinching the AL West, leaving the Astros’ magic number at one over Los Angeles.

”It was awesome. Every game means a lot to us right now,” said Upton, acquired from the Tigers last month. ”Any time you can contribute to the win and send us in the right direction, it’s fun.”

Upton connected in the first inning and again in the eighth. He has 31 home runs and a career-high 103 RBIs this year with Detroit and the Angels – it’s his second straight season with at least 30 homers.

The 30-year-old Upton had just one homer in his first 13 games for the Angels before twice tagging Hamels (10-4).

”I’ve faced him a lot,” Upton said. ”He mixes it up really well. He can cut it and run the fastball and throws four-seamer, curveball, changeup, everything. You’ve got to be ready for anything. If you can get it in the zone and lay off some pitches, you’ll put yourself in a good position. I was able to get a couple of good pitches.”

Bridwell (8-2) retired the first 13 batters he faced and left after a leadoff walk in the seventh. He allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked two, just what the Angels needed. The Angels are 16-2 in games Bridwell has pitched this season.

Yusmeiro Petit retired the side in the ninth for his third save, completing a combined three-hitter.

Hamels gave up four hits in 7 1/3 innings. He pitched around four walks and struck out five.

”He’s been a true warrior on the mound,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ”It was two pitches. It was a tough loss.”

ALWAYS ON THE BASEPATHS

Robinson Chirinos drew a walk for Texas in the fifth and has reached base safely in 29 consecutive games.

CONCERT WITH A CAUSE

Nick Jonas did a postgame concert on the field which benefited ”Strikeout for Slavery,” an organization starter by Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre, aimed at ending human trafficking.

Jonas and his brothers chatted with Pujols before the game and took batting practice.

”It’s a great cause they’re here for,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ”I think it says a lot about their social justice commitment. And, they have nice swings. They swung the bat OK.”

It was Nick Jonas’ 25th birthday.

A RARE CATCH AT LEADOFF

Mike Trout was in the leadoff spot on Saturday for the first time in more than four years – June 18, 2013 was the last time.

”(There’s) not a lot of flexibility in our lineup today with some of the guys who are banged up,” Scioscia said. ”We need to write them up and try to get guys as many looks as we can, so that’s why he’s leading off.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: OF Nomar Mazara (quadriceps) pinch-hit in the eighth.

Angels: INF Brandon Phillips (tightness lower back) is still day-to-day and Scioscia was hopeful he would be back in the lineup Sunday. … LHP Andrew Heaney (shoulder) is expected to play catch soon and then will be re-evaluated . INF Yunel Escobar (right oblique strain) will start to swing a bat on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Rangers: RHP Miguel Gonzalez (7-11, 4.86 ERA) hasn’t pitched more than three innings in either of his two starts for the Rangers since he was acquired from the White Sox in an August trade.

Angels: RHP Garrett Richards (0-1, 1.38) has allowed one or fewer runs in each of his three starts for the Angels this season, since coming off the disabled list with a right biceps strain.

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