ARLINGTON, Texas — On a day when the Rangers made a major pitching acquisition, they saw first-hand what a strong pitching performance can do for a team.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, that pitching performance came from the Angels’ Jered Weaver.
Weaver shut out the Rangers for the first six innings Tuesday to lift the Angels to a 6-2 win.
Weaver won his eighth consecutive start to improve to 14-1 on the season. The win pulled the Angels within three games of the AL West-leading Rangers and gave them a 2-0 start in the four-game series.
Weaver retired the first 14 batters he faced while the Angels built a 6-0 lead off Rangers starter Derek Holland. Weaver left after giving up two runs in the seventh, but that was all the offense the wilting Rangers could muster.
“That’s why he’s 14-1, because he can pitch,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He’s at his best when he’s in trouble. It seems like every time he’s in trouble against us, he gets out of it.”
It’s the Rangers who are in trouble now as their division lead continues to dwindle (Oakland was 3 1/2 back at the start of the day). The Rangers finished July with a 9-14 record (.391), their worst full month, percentage-wise, since going 11-18 (.379) in August of 2008.
Tuesday’s trade deadline deal with the Cubs for righthanded starter Ryan Dempster should help bolster a pitching staff beset by injuries and inconsistency.
Holland (7-6) has been both – injured and inconsistent – this season. After allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings Tuesday, he gave up three home runs, two to Albert Pujols.
Holland has allowed seven home runs in his last three starts.
“Out of those seven, there’s probably a few that I made my pitch and they just were right on it,” Holland said. “This is the big leagues, so you’ve got to give them their credit for hitting mistake pitches and I’ve obviously got to make a better pitch next time.”
Holland compounded his problems by walking No. 9 batter Chris Iannetta twice. The second time it cost him as Mike Trout homered after the walk.
One of Pujols’ two homers came on an 0-2 count. Holland tried to throw the pitch high out of the strike zone, but it wasn’t high enough to keep Pujols from getting a good swing on it.
“I felt really good about my start,” Holland said. “I did do what I needed to do. If I had to take anything back, I’d take a couple of pitches back.”
Pujols and Trout both homered in a three-run sixth inning for the Angels, which gave them a 4-0 lead. One day earlier, the Angels scored nine runs in the sixth inning of a 15-8 win.
“It happened in the sixth again, just one inning,” Washington said. “If we can get to the point where we start doing better at minimizing the damage in that one inning, then things will work out.”
The Rangers could start by doing some damage of their own. After struggling to hit with runners in scoring position for most of this homestand, the Rangers couldn’t get on base Tuesday. The Angels’ bullpen retired all eight batters they faced and the top four batters in the Rangers’ order were a combined 0 for 16.
“We’re building some innings,” said first baseman Mitch Moreland, who had one of the Rangers’ five hits. “It’s getting there. I think if we keep getting guys on, eventually it’s going to poke through. It’s just a matter of time before we get there.”
As the calendar turns to August, time won’t be on the Rangers’ side much longer.
“We’re grinding as hard as we can,” Washington said. “It is dog days, but we’re grinding as hard as we can. You’ve got to just work your way through it. And we will.”