The Rangers will try to move back into a tie atop the division Tuesday night when they continue their three-game road series against the Angels.
Texas (45-36) welcomed Hamilton back for Monday’s series opener after the center fielder missed the previous 30 games due to abdominal surgery. Hamilton wasn’t rusty, getting two hits in four at-bats.
“I would have stayed down (in the minors) longer if I didn’t feel like I was ready,” Hamilton said. “It’s good to be back up here and be around the guys again and actually feel like part of the team, instead of just a guy hanging out.”
His contributions weren’t enough as the Angels snapped the Rangers’ five-game winning streak with a 9-4 victory. Jeff Mathis(notes) hit a three-run homer that put Los Angeles (46-35) ahead for good in the second inning and Juan Rivera(notes) added three hits and two RBIs.
The Angels won their fourth straight and improved to 2-5 against the surprising Rangers this year after dropping two series in Texas.
“You have to play well against whatever team shows up on the schedule,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “If we were playing any other team but Texas, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to bring the focus and intensity. When we’re playing well as a team, we can do this against anyone.
“But it’s still July, there’s still a lot of baseball left, and we’re still trying to evolve as a team.”
Rivera is 10 for 26 (.385) with two homers and nine RBIs versus Texas this year. The left fielder is hitting .340 (16 for 47) with three homers and 12 RBIs over his last 11 games.
Angels starter John Lackey(notes) (3-3, 4.70 ERA) has a higher ERA versus Texas than any other AL opponent. Lackey, who made his major league debut with a loss to the Rangers in 2002, is 10-10 with a 5.79 ERA against them in 28 starts.
His last start versus Los Angeles came in his season debut May 16 and marked the only time Lackey has failed to record an out in his career. He hit Ian Kinsler(notes) in the ribs with his second pitch of the game and was ejected by home plate umpire Bob Davidson.
In Lackey’s last start, he allowed two runs in eight innings of a 5-2 victory over Baltimore on Thursday.
His opponent on the mound Tuesday will be Dustin Nippert(notes), who is set for his 2009 debut. Nippert spent the first three months of the season on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his right shoulder suffered in spring training.
The right-hander has pitched out of the bullpen for most of his four years in the majors. He went 3-5 with a 6.40 ERA last season for the Rangers in 20 appearances - six starts.
Nippert is 0-1 with a 6.92 ERA in three appearances against the Angels, with one start.