ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers finally gained some ground in the wild-card race with the regular season down to two games.
Alex Rios keyed a seventh-inning uprising to lead Texas to 5-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark.
Texas (89-71) has won five in a row and trails wild-card leaders Cleveland and Tampa Bay by one game. Both teams are 90-70. The Indians won, but the Rays lost, marking the first time the Rangers have closed the gap on either team during their current winning streak.
"It's where we want to be," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "From where we were to where we are now, it's where we want to be -- still in the hunt."
Texas took the lead in the seventh against Angels reliever J.C. Gutierrez. Ian Kinsler opened the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pickoff attempt and then went to third on Elvis Andrus' sac bunt.
Rios singled through the right side to drive home Kinsler. Rios wasn't done. He stole second and with two outs and raced home on A.J. Pierzynski's infield single. Pierzynski also drove in two runs.
"It was a team effort," Andrus said. "We did a good job of scoring runs early and were able to win it at the end."
The Texas bullpen finished 3 2/3 scoreless innings to nail down the victory. Neal Cotts (7-3) picked up the win and Joe Nathan logged his 42nd save.
The Angels didn't get a hit after the fifth inning.
"I attribute that to fighting for your life," Washington said of the bullpen. "They came in and executed pitches."
The four-game series continues Saturday with a morning start. The Angels (78-82) are 4-13 against Texas this season and clinched a losing record for only the second time in 10 years under manager Mike Scioscia.
"Whether we had gotten to .500 or not, it can't mask our challenges ahead of how to get better," Scioscia said. "It's frustrating, but nothing has changed."
The Rangers got to Angels starter and former Ranger C.J. Wilson in the first, taking advantage of a leadoff walk and a perfectly executed hit-and-run play. Wilson walked Kinsler, who went to third when Andrus sent a chopper through a wide-open right side. Rios' groundout to short scored Kinsler to give Texas 1-0 lead.
Los Angeles got the run back against Alexi Ogando in the third on Kole Calhoun's sacrifice fly. Alex Romine singled to open the inning and advanced to third on Erick Aybar's hit.
Wilson lost his control in third and the Rangers happily took advantage to go ahead 3-1. The lefty threw three wild pitches, hit two batters and issued a walk.
Pierzynski was plunked with the bases loaded to force in one run. Rios came home on Wilson's third pitch in the dirt. Wilson was up to 77 pitches when the inning finally ended with his fifth strikeout.
"We took advantage of C.J.'s wildness early in the game," Washington said. "We had some opportunities there."
Wilson complained about the baseballs after the game, saying they were either scuffed up or straight out of the box. He came into the game with a 7.92 ERA in seven career starts against Texas.
"He's pitched really well for us, hasn't pitched well in this park, but I don't know if there's an explanation for it," Scioscia said.
Josh Hamilton tied the score at 3-3 with a two-run, bases-loaded single for the Angels in the fifth. It was also his 1,000th career hit.
NOTES: Major League Baseball released the tiebreaker sequence should a three-way tie exist between Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas for the two American League wild-card berths. Cleveland would host Tampa Bay on Monday, with the winner earning a wild card. The loser would then play at Texas on Tuesday, with the winner earning the other wild-card spot. Home-field advantage in Wednesday's wild-card game would be determined by head-to-head record. ... The starting time for Saturday's game has been moved 11:05 a.m. CT because of a threat of inclement weather later in the day. It would be the earliest start ever at Rangers Ballpark. ... Texas' run of four consecutive walk-off wins by home run over the Angels in Arlington is a first in MLB history. Never before had one team won four straight at home over another in such fashion.