Rangers start critical series by edging Halos

BY foxsports • May 16, 2009

Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton seemed disappointed about his towering 460-foot home run.

"I hit toward the label a little bit, because it vibrated my hands," Hamilton said. "It was one of the easiest swings I've had in a while."

While Hamilton wants to hit a 500-foot homer in a game - like his awe-inspring display at the Home Run Derby last summer - his two-run shot proved to be the difference as AL West-leading Texas held on for its fifth straight victory, 10-8 over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.

"We needed it bad," manager Ron Washington said.

Hamilton, already with an RBI triple and a defensive play that prevented a run, homered for the third time in four games since coming off the disabled list. It was the third-longest homer at Rangers Ballpark, making it 10-3 before the Angels scored five times in the ninth.

Ian Kinsler homered twice and Andruw Jones also went deep for the Rangers (21-14), who moved seven games over .500 for the first time since June 2005, two seasons before Washington became their manager. Only twice before have they won more times through 35 games - 1996 and 1998, their first two division-winning seasons.

Kinsler and Jones hit two-run homers in a span of four pitches in the third off Joe Saunders (5-2), who has always been great on the road - everywhere except in Texas.

"It kind of fires me up that I haven't had success (in Texas). I tried to bring everything I had tonight and obviously I didn't have much to bring to the table stuff-wise," Saunders said. "I felt I was a little bit off in every aspect."

Saunders, coming off his first career shutout in a 1-0 victory at home Saturday over Kansas City and Zach Greinke, dropped to 0-4 with a 10.29 ERA in four starts at Rangers Ballpark. The left-hander is 20-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 28 starts as a visitor to other ballparks.

Kevin Millwood (4-3) gave up two runs while scattering nine hits and walking two over six innings. It was the first time in his eight starts this season the right-hander didn't go at least seven innings. His only 1-2-3 inning was the first, when he threw 12 pitches.

"Personally, I thought it was OK. I definitely could have pitched better, should have gone deeper," Millwood said. "For the team, it's a nice win. ... I'm just glad we scored 10 runs."

After two quick outs in the ninth, Los Angeles had seven straight batters reach base, including Kendry Morales' three-run homer. C.J. Wilson, the third pitcher in the inning, earned his first save and finally ended the game when Howie Kendrick hit a grounder with two runners on base.

Hamilton, who missed two weeks because of a strained muscle in his rib cage, quickly put the Rangers ahead with a triple into the right-field corner after Michael Young doubled in the first. Jones followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

Kinsler's solo shot with one out in the sixth, his 11th of the season, was on the last pitch Saunders threw.

The last time Saunders had allowed more than three earned runs away from Anaheim was Sept. 26, 2007, at Texas. He had been 7-0 his last nine road starts since losing a complete game against the Rangers last July 8.

The Angels didn't score until Erick Aybar had a two-out RBI triple to make it 6-1 in the fifth, a batter after Kendrick was thrown out at home by Hamilton's throw to the plate when Chone Figgins singled to center.


Los Angeles and Texas had both won 12 of 16 games coming into the weekend series. ... Rangers closer Frank Francisco, who hasn't pitched since May 6 because of right biceps tendinitis, threw long toss. The next step is a bullpen session Saturday. ... The only longer homers at Rangers Ballpark were Paul Sorrento of Tampa Bay (491 feet) in 1999 and Jose Canseco for the Rangers (480 feet) in 1994. ... It was Kinsler's fourth career multihomer game. ... The attendance was 33,429, of which 9,600 tickets were sold Friday.

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