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22-12

Angels-Rangers Preview

AP - Sports

After being liberal with their respective checkbooks in the offseason, it was expected the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers would wage a wire-to-wire battle for first place in the AL West.

Less than six weeks into the season – and following the first of 19 head-to-head meetings – it's clear which team has the upper hand.

Sporting the best record in the major leagues, the Rangers go for their fifth win in six games as they meet the last-place Angels on Saturday afternoon in Arlington.

Texas (22-11) got two more homers from Josh Hamilton, and Yu Darvish put together a solid outing to bounce back from his first big-league loss en route to a 10-3 victory Friday to match the franchise's best start after 33 games.

Darvish, who the Rangers spent $51.7 million just for negotiating rights last winter, returned after a nearly two-hour rain delay and struck out seven over 5 1-3 innings. He also surrendered just three hits, including homers to Mike Trout and Torii Hunter.

Hamilton, meanwhile, continued arguably the finest week of his six-year major league career in what could ultimately be a season for the ages as he belted two more homers among three hits.

Hamilton has an 11-game hitting streak, but in his last five, he's gone 11 for 21 (.524) with eight homers, 14 RBI, a .600 on-base percentage and 1.714 slugging percentage. While it's too early to think about Hamilton having a Triple Crown season, he leads the majors with a .407 batting average, 17 homers and 40 RBIs.

''He's as locked in as any hitter can be right now,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Meanwhile, Albert Pujols – the Angels' $240 million first baseman – went 0 for 4, lowering his average to .192. The three-time NL Most Valuable Player is hitting .132 (5 for 38) with his only homer of the season and seven RBIs in May.

Jerome Williams was to start for the Angels on Saturday, but was pressed into service Friday after the long delay kept starter C.J. Wilson – another high-priced free agent signing - from returning after throwing 22 pitches.

Williams allowed both of Hamilton's homers while yielding six runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings.

Los Angeles (14-19), which has dropped two of three and trails Texas by eight games, will come back with Wilson (4-3, 3.46 ERA) on Saturday.

''Two hours is too long for C.J. to go back out,'' Scioscia said, ''and he felt really strong that he could come back and start (Saturday), and we felt that was the best option.''

The left-hander was reached for four runs and three hits in one-third of an inning Friday before the rain.

The Rangers will go with Matt Harrison (4-2, 5.11).

Also a left-hander, Harrison avoided losing his third straight start after surrendering three runs and six hits in seven innings of the Rangers' 14-3 win at Baltimore on Monday.

Harrison was 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two home starts during April. He hasn't pitched in Arlington since being ripped for seven runs and a season-high 14 hits over five innings of an 8-4 loss to Tampa Bay on April 27.

In five games – three starts – against the Angels, Harrison is 1-2 with a 5.95 ERA. Hunter and fellow outfielder Vernon Wells have each gone 1 for 10 off Harrison, although Hunter's hit was a three-run homer.

Wells was hitless in four trips to the plate Friday and is 0 for 8 in his last two games.

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