Hamilton, Byrd homer in Rangers’ 4-3 win
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—In a game that had as many ejections as home runs—three — the Texas Rangers survived umpire Bill Hohn’s generous strike zone and avoided a four-game sweep by the Los Angeles Angels.
The Angels’ magic number remained at nine for clinching their fourth AL West title in five years. The second-place Rangers, who have six games left with them, are 17 games out of first place with an entire month left on the schedule — including a season-ending three-game set at the Big A.
“You always wish they meant something at this time of the year,” manager Ron Washington said. “I think we’ve played them very tough. I don’t think there were any games where they just rolled over us. A lot of times it just came down to one swing of the bat, one pitch or one play.”
The Rangers were 7 1/2 games off the pace at the All-Star break, but any legitimate hopes they might have had of making the playoffs evaporated during a recent 3-14 stretch—including a 19-17 loss at Boston that served as a microcosm to their season—great hitting, suspect pitching.
“We had a team that had a chance to make the playoffs, but in the second half, things just didn’t click for us,” Byrd said. “The way they’ve been playing all year long, it was inevitable that they would win the division. They’ve taken over. It was the A’s for a while, but now the Angels are running the AL West.”
Millwood (9-7) allowed two runs and five hits in 6 2-3 innings following back-to-back complete-game victories over Detroit and Kansas City.
The right-hander struck out seven and was lifted after 101 pitches by pitching coach Andy Hawkins, who ran the club after Washington was ejected in the top of the seventh by Hohn for arguing a checked-swing third strike against Byrd.
The 20-year veteran umpire also ejected Angels manager Mike Scioscia in the fifth, and Rangers catcher Gerald Laird in the eighth after he took a called third strike.
“He had eject-itis today,” Washington said. “I thought he ejected Marlon, so he went out there and found out it was me. All I did was say that he had to get help on that. Marlon didn’t go anywhere near the plate with his bat. So I gave him a piece of my mind.”
The Angels got a broken-bat RBI single by Mark Teixeira with two out in the eighth against Jamey Wright. But Frank Francisco got the last four outs for his second save in his second appearance since taking over as the team’s closer following the trade of Eddie Guardado to Minnesota.
Scioscia was ejected after Hohn ruled that Blalock checked his swing and then ignored catcher Jeff Mathis’ request for an appeal at third. On Saturday night, Scioscia lost another argument with Hohn after he ruled Chris Davis safe at first base with a headfirst slide on a potential double-play grounder. TV replays indicated that Hohn blew that call.
Lackey (11-3) allowed four runs and nine hits over five innings and struck out five. The right-hander from Abilene, Texas, is 9-9 lifetime with a 5.45 ERA in 25 career starts against the Rangers, and 81-52 with a 3.53 ERA against everyone else.
Both of Texas’ home runs went to center field, a day after center fielder Torii Hunter had robbed the Rangers of a home run for the second straight game. Hunter, trying to win his eighth straight Gold Glove, was still a little banged up after hitting the back of his head against the fence and had the day off.
Friday night, Hunter hit his face on the outfield fence pulling back Byrd’s bid for a potential go-ahead home run. Saturday night, he hit the back of his head on the fence while denying Hank Blalock of a game-tying two-run shot in a 3-1 Angels win.
Hamilton, who took himself out of Saturday night’s game because of intense pain related to the root canal procedure he had on Wednesday, drilled Lackey’s 0-1 changeup in the first inning for his 30th homer and major league-leading 117th RBI.
“I didn’t have him in the lineup, initially,” Washington said. “But when he got to the ballpark, he came in and said he felt good. So I just wanted him to let me know that he was going to be in there for nine. He told me he would, so I changed it.”
Byrd, who batted .393 in August with four home runs and 20 RBIs, made it 3-0 in the second with his 10th homer of the season on 1-1 slider. Gary Matthews Jr. scaled the fence in an attempt to catch Byrd’s towering drive—but it traveled too far for even Hunter to have made another miracle grab had he been playing.
Juan Rivera cut Texas’ lead to 3-2 in the bottom half with his 10th homer, which followed Teixeira’s leadoff single. Rivera had seven RBIs in the series, including a pinch-hit three-run double in Thursday night’s 7-5 win.
Washington had a long argument with Hohn after his fourth ejection of the season. After he left for the clubhouse, everyone on the field stood at attention while the crowd of 39,153 sang “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. … Hohn made called third strikes four times against Angels batters and three times against the Rangers. … Before Millwood’s consecutive complete games, the last Rangers pitcher to go the distance in back-to-back starts was current Angels RHP Darren Oliver in May 1998. … Scioscia’s ejection was his fourth this season and second in five games.