Nathan coughs up lead to Angels in Game 1

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Texas Rangers won’t be clinching any division titles in Arlington this year.

The Los Angeles Angels rallied for two runs in the ninth off Texas closer Joe Nathan to beat the Rangers 5-4.

Texas was one out from securing a playoff spot but Torii Hunter doubled to left center off Nathan to score the tying and winning runs. It was just the third blown save of the year for Nathan but it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time.

Texas has lost both games of the series and their lead in the West over Oakland is now down to two games with four games remaining, including three in Oakland beginning Monday.

Nathan got the first out before Maicer Izturis singled to left. Nathan then got ahead of No. 9 hitter Chris Iannetta but ended up walking him. After striking out Mike Trout for the second out, Hunter slapped a Nathan slider to left center to score Izturis and pinch runner Peter Bourjos.

“It was a bad pitch,” Nathan said. “One bad in the inning. Honestly I think the slider was up all inning. Just when I was involved in an at-bat with him, you can’t leave a slider up because he’s going to be swinging. Bad pitch. Wrong time. He’s a good player. He’s going to get you sometimes. Unfortunately it was a bad spot.”

Despite the tough loss, the Rangers aren’t in a bad spot. They still control their own destiny for winning the West.

But they could have made things easier with a win in Game 1 of the split doubleheader Sunday. They were in position to do so.

Texas got a two-run homer from Nelson Cruz off Zack Greinke in the second and an RBI single from Josh Hamilton and run-scoring double from Adrian Beltre in the third to build a 4-1 lead with Yu Darvish on the mound.

But the Angels kept Darvish in jams throughout the game, scoring runs off him in the third, sixth and seventh innings. He ended up allowing nine hits and three runs in 6 2/3 innings. Darvish finished with his eighth consecutive quality start, the longest by a Texas pitcher since 2005.

Darvish missed his last start because of a stiff neck and didn’t think he was at his best Sunday.

“I didn’t feel that sharp today but I thought I did the best I can to give the team a chance to win,” Darvish said

Alexi Ogando kept in him line for the victory by pitching 1 1/3 hitless innings before the Rangers turned the game over to Nathan.

“Well that’s where we wanted the ball,” Texas manager Ron Washington said of the ninth. “They (the Angels) just fought and took it from us. But that is exactly where we wanted to be.”