ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels let a chance to avoid a losing season slip away — like the baseball coming out of C.J. Wilson’s hands.
Wilson had an erratic inning with three wild pitches and consecutive hit batters, and he blamed that wildness on the condition of the balls put into play after the Angels’ 82nd loss, 5-3 to the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
“One out of every four (balls) was rubbed up, and then three out of every four were basically brand new,” Wilson said. “The balls were kind of squirting around … If you’re a lefty and you hit a lefty with a slider, that’s obviously not what you’re trying to do.”
The home team, which happens to be Wilson’s former team, is responsible for the baseballs used in the game.
“We were just changing the balls out … You going to call it a coincidence? It’s not a coincidence,” Wilson said. “Let’s be honest.”
The Rangers finally gained some ground in the AL wild-card race with their fifth consecutive victory, though they still don’t have a playoff spot with only two games left in the regular season.
Alex Rios had a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning, and the Rangers moved closer in the wild-card standings for the first time in their winning streak.
Wild-card leader Tampa Bay lost at Toronto, dropping the Rays into a tie with Cleveland for the two spots after the Indians beat Minnesota. The Rangers, looking for their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, are a game back.
“We just want an opportunity, just want that shot,” Elvis Andrus said.
Ian Kinsler led off the seventh with a walk off Juan Gutierrez (1-5), then moved to second on an errant pickoff throw by the reliever who had taken over after Wilson threw 121 pitches in six innings. Rios had his run-scoring hit after a sac bunt by Andrus, then scored on a two-out infield single by A.J. Pierzynski.
The Angels will finish with only their second losing record the past 10 seasons — when they were AL West champions five times.
“To be totally honest with you, whether we had run off and gotten over .500 or not doesn’t or can’t mask our challenge ahead of how we need to get better,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It is very frustrating. Nothing has changed as far as if you want to talk about the whole season being frustrating. I think that’s a pretty good buzzword to put on it.”
Texas went ahead 3-1 after a wild 31-pitch third inning for Wilson, the left-hander who went to the Angels in free agency after being part of the Rangers’ only two World Series teams (2010 and 2011) .
“I just thought C.J. was off all night,” Scioscia said. “He was behind every count. It was just a struggle for C.J. Still he got through six innings giving us a chance, he just wasn’t sharp out there.”
Andrus had a one-out single and got to third on two wild pitches, the second which came on ball four to Rios. Wilson then hit consecutive batters with pitches — Adrian Beltre in the left knee to load the bases before getting Pierzynski in the shoulder blade to drive in a run.
Rios scored on another wild pitch, sliding into the plate almost simultaneously with Wilson, who slipped while coming to cover and got tangled up with the runner.
In all, there were three wild pitches by Wilson and two hit batters in the third. But he struck out the last two batters, starting a stretch of retiring 10 in a row before finishing with six strikeouts and four walks.
“You just make adjustments, you just try to figure out and sometimes it just takes time,” Wilson said. “We changed more balls than we normally changed, but that’s not really the focus of the game.”
The Rangers don’t have to wait long to play again — Saturday’s game was moved up eight hours to an 11:05 a.m. start. The weather forecast called for moderate showers and thunderstorms in the area by early afternoon and increasing in intensity throughout the day and into the night, when the game was originally scheduled.
Alexi Ogando allowed three runs with four strikeouts over 5 1-3 innings. Closer Joe Nathan worked a perfect ninth for his 42nd save in 45 chances.
Jason Frasor struck out the only two batters he faced before Neal Cotts (6-3) and Tanner Scheppers both worked perfect innings with two strikeouts.
The Angels didn’t even get a runner on base against the four relievers.
NOTES: Within minutes after the Rays had lost, the Angels got even 3-all on a two-out single by Josh Hamilton for his 1,000th career hit. … Hamilton has a 12-game hitting streak, matching his longest of the season. … Wilson finished 17-7 with a 3.39 ERA. He was 9-0 his last 12 road starts.