Angels 5, Rangers 3
Figgins had RBI hits in the last two innings and scored the go-ahead run on an infield grounder. Percival then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, and the Angels beat the Texas Rangers 5-3 Monday night in the opener of a key four-game series.
“It’s still a three-team race,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We never had the perspective that all we had to do is beat Oakland. Texas is a legitimate contender. … The challenge is still before us.”
The Angels remained just a game behind Oakland in the AL West after the Athletics beat Seattle 6-5 in the start of a four-game series. Texas dropped to three back.
Bartolo Colon (17-12) allowed just four hits in eight-plus innings, becoming the first pitcher to beat Texas six times in a season.
After Figgins tripled in the eighth to tie the game at 3-all, he raced home on Darin Erstad’s grounder. First baseman Mark Teixeira fielded cleanly and threw home, but Figgins slid around the sweeping tag of Ken Huckaby and was able to touch the back corner of home plate with his fingertips.
“On that type of slide, you’re not able to get the whole plate,” Figgins said. “As long as the umpire is in a good position where he can see you nick that plate, that’s the best way you’re going to do it.”
Figgins took off as soon as Erstad, who had struck out his first three at-bats, hit the ball to the right side. Figgins added an RBI single off Ron Mahay in the ninth.
Colon gave up consecutive singles to start the ninth and Percival gave up another single that loaded the bases. Percival, pitching for the third straight day, then got two infield popouts before striking out Brian Jordan for his 31st save in 36 chances.
“It’s not gratifying. I expect to get the job done in that situation,” said Percival, eligible to become a free agent after the season. “I’m not trying to make any statement. I’m trying to get my team in the playoffs. The rest will take care of itself.”
The Rangers, a surprise contender after four straight last-place finishes, have lost three of four games since sweeping a three-game series from the A’s last week.
“This one stings for sure. It’s a tough loss,” shortstop Michael Young said. “We were facing one of the best closers in the game, and he’s made a career out of getting out of jams like that.”
Jose Molina led off the eighth with a single off Kenny Rogers (17-9) and pinch-hitter Alfredo Amezaga sacrificed. Figgins then tripled into the right-field corner on a ball that landed just in fair territory.
Colon, 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA his first five starts against Texas this season, didn’t give up a hit until David Dellucci’s two-out single in the fourth. Kevin Mench followed with his 25th homer for a 3-1 lead.
“Once he gets a full head of steam, he’s tough to stop,” said Young, who had one of the ninth-inning hits. “He doesn’t slow down as the game goes on. He seems to get stronger.’
Dellucci scored an unearned run in the second, drawing a one-out walk and scoring on second baseman Figgins’ throwing error on a potential double-play ball.
Rogers missed a chance at his career-best 18th win. He allowed four runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Vladimir Guerrero led off the second with his 34th homer, a 423-foot shot to left field for his 116th RBI, five shy of the Angels record. He had a leadoff double in the seventh and scored on Riggs’ groundout that got Anaheim to 3-2.
The Angels are 2-0 since left fielder Jose Guillen was suspended without pay for the rest of the season Sunday. Riggs started in his place, going 0-for-4 with the RBI.
Guillen was suspended after his outburst when he was pulled for a pinch runner Saturday against Oakland. The players’ association filed a grievance seeking to overturn the suspension, and an arbitration hearing is set Friday in Oakland.
The other pitchers to beat Texas five times in a season were Stan Bahnsen for the Chicago White Sox in 1972, Bert Blyleven for Cleveland and Minnesota in 1985, and Ramon Ortiz with the Angels in 2001. … Despite the playoff chase, the announced crowd was just 20,333. The Dallas Cowboys were playing the NFL Monday night game. … Rogers is 5-7 in 16 starts since becoming the first pitcher in the majors with 12 wins on July 5 against Cleveland. … Young has 209 hits, one short of a team record.