Kazmir baffles Rangers as Angels get win
Scott Kazmir is tuning up for the playoffs with a new team, and finally has a victory for the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Kazmir pitched six scoreless innings to get his first victory since being acquired Aug. 28 from defending American League champion Tampa Bay, and the Angels won 2-0 Friday night to stretch their division lead to a season-high 7 1/2 games over the scoring-challenged Texas Rangers.
"Any time you're with a new team, you want to show what you're made of. This was the perfect example. There was something I wanted to prove," said Kazmir, whose former team has already been eliminated from postseason contention. "It's always exciting to get your first one with your new team, especially a team that's trying to get a playoff spot."
While the left-hander pitched well enough to win each of his first three starts - his ERA is now 1.42 in Los Angeles - he had gotten only four runs of offensive support while going 0-1. But Kazmir and three relievers didn't need much help against the Rangers.
downlevel descriptionThis video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.
Texas was shut out for the fourth time in a five-game span - a first in team history. The Rangers have scored only once in 46 innings during their season-worst five-game losing streak.
"It just came at a bad time," team president Nolan Ryan said. "It's so unusual for what you think of for this franchise. Over the years, I've seen good hitting clubs go into slumps, but I've never seen a stretch like there where the whole team just didn't hit."
While the Angels are closing in on their third consecutive AL West title, Texas' chances of making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years are quickly fading. If Los Angeles goes 7-8 the rest of the way, the Rangers would have to go 15-1 just to force a division tiebreaker.
Texas trails in the AL wild-card race by seven games to Boston, which won 3-1 at Baltimore.
After missing Thursday's game with a bruised rib cage, Vladimir Guerrero homered for the Angels, his 15th leading off the third. He extending another inning with a strikeout.
The Angels went ahead to stay in the first on Torii Hunter's RBI single. That came right Guerrero reached despite striking out, what would have been the third out, because of a wild pitch by rookie right-hander Tommy Hunter (8-4).
Hunter struck out five with four walks in five innings.
Kazmir (9-8) struck out five with no walks, but threw 104 pitches through six innings. Five days earlier, he threw a career-high 118 pitches in six innings against the Chicago White Sox.
"It wasn't like we gave him a big cushion. ... He pitched a terrific game. He worked hard, had to throw a lot of pitches. But he settled in and finished strong. It was an important six innings he gave us," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Scott's important to our rotation. He's given us four good starts."
Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen, who got out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, each pitched a scoreless inning before Brian Fuentes wrapped up the Angels' 11th shutout of the season working the ninth for his 43rd save in 50 chances.
Texas couldn't score even after a rare miscue by center fielder Hunter, whose errant throw allowed Ian Kinsler to take an extra base after a one-out single in the eighth. Hunter's first error in 265 games ended the longest active errorless streak by a major league outfielder.
"It kind of slipped out of my hand. ... I wanted to cut it off from a double and throw to second," Hunter said. "To make an error on that situation is not good. We won the game. Now I can think about the individual stuff. When I drive home tonight I can beat up my truck a little bit."
The Angels had the bases loaded in the second after a single, a sacrifice bunt, an error and a walk. Bobby Abreu then hit a flyball to right, but Nelson Cruz made a spectacular running catch, extending his glove as far as he could above his head and making the grab in stride only a few steps from the warning track.
NOTES: Texas was shut out for the 11th time this season, the most since 11 in 2003. ... Hunter's last error had been Aug. 31, 2007 against Kansas City. ... The Angels are 59-30 since June 11, when they were 29-29. ... Rudy Giuliani sat in the front row with Rangers owner Tom Hicks. The former New York City mayor this week was in Texas to do campaign fundraising for Gov. Rick Perry.