Angels-Rangers Preview

Adrian Beltre has been instrumental to the Texas Rangers’ recent success and that could lead to their first AL West title in four years.

It may also further damage the Los Angeles Angels’ playoff hopes.

Beltre looks to continue his hot hitting as the Rangers attempt to close in on the division crown Thursday night against the Angels in the opener of this season-ending series with major postseason implications.

Texas (86-72) is atop the West by 2 1/2 games on Houston and three ahead of the Angels (83-75) heading into this four-game set. The Astros are idle until opening a three-game series with Arizona on Friday.

While the Rangers’ chances of clinching the West are on hold, they can assure themselves of at least a wild-card spot with one more win.

"I think you can’t help but feel it. We also believe in the fact that these guys are in the now … no opportunity wasted," first-year manager Jeff Banister said. "They really don’t get caught up with what’s down the road, but I believe that it brings a sense of energy and a little added energy for us, and some added focus."

That’s certainly true for Beltre, who’s hitting .416 with four homers and 24 RBIs over the past 19 games. However, his impact has been clear in Texas’ 13 victories over that stretch, batting .500 while hitting all of those homers and driving in all of those runs.

He came through again Wednesday, connecting for a two-run blast and a double in a 6-2 win over Detroit.

"The captain, the guy that sits right in the middle of our club, beacon that all these guys look towards," Banister said.

The Angels fell one-half game behind Houston in the race for the AL’s second wild-card spot after losing 8-7 to Oakland on Wednesday. They committed a season-high four errors as their seven-game winning streak ended.

"We’re a better team than that," said second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who had one of the errors. "To win a championship, you can’t have those errors."

Mike Trout went 3 for 3 with his 41st homer Wednesday, giving him a .375 average with five home runs and 11 RBIs in the past 13 games. He’s hitting .415 with five homers while plating 13 runs in 15 meetings with Texas this year.

Andrew Heaney (6-3, 3.29 ERA) takes the mound, and the rookie left-hander has a 2.12 ERA while not getting a decision in his last three starts. He allowed two runs in six innings before David Freese hit a walkoff homer in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Seattle.

Heaney had the same line while earning a 13-7 home win over Texas on July 26.

He’s 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in seven road starts.

The Rangers turn to Derek Holland (3-3, 4.99), who is 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA over his last four starts after going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his first four since returning from a shoulder injury.

The left-hander had a scare in the first inning Saturday, when he was hit in the left middle finger by a line drive just above his head. He remained in the game and allowed four runs and three homers in five innings while not getting a decision in a 9-7 loss at Houston.

"It gets better every day," Holland told MLB’s official website of his sore finger.

Holland is 1-1 with a 6.68 ERA over his last five home starts against the Angels. He yielded one run in eight innings of a 2-1 victory at Los Angeles on Sept. 5.