Rangers beat Angels again, tighten AL West race

GREG BEACHAM (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The Texas Rangers realize they'll have to be resourceful on offense to make the postseason without suspended slugger Nelson Cruz.

When they scored eight runs without an extra-base hit Tuesday night, manager Ron Washington was thrilled - but not at all surprised.

''What's the difference between small-ball and winning baseball?'' he asked. ''Aggression is always going to be our game.''

Adrian Beltre drove in the tiebreaking run in the eighth, Yu Darvish pitched seven solid innings, and the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 8-3 for their eighth win in nine games.

Elvis Andrus had three hits and scored the go-ahead run as the Rangers won their third straight and moved within one game of AL West-leading Oakland, which lost at Cincinnati.

The Rangers broke open a tight game with Beltre's single against Kevin Jepsen (1-3), and they poured it on with a symphony of small-ball brilliance with a four-run ninth. Texas pounded out 12 singles, stole six bases, capitalized on errors and wild pitches, and got a crafty effort from Darvish (11-5) without his best stuff.

To Washington, that's Rangers baseball in its purest form.

''It was quite exciting to be able to go out there and play the game we love to play,'' Washington said. ''It was a night when it all came together, but it's always been an emphasis. I call that winning baseball.''

Texas batted around in the ninth against Los Angeles' hapless bullpen - with help from two more stolen bases. Craig Gentry scored all the way from second base when Calhoun botched a grounder at first, and Andrus singled home Leonys Martin - who had just stolen second even as the Angels pitched out - before Beltre added another RBI single.

''We have to create opportunities for ourselves,'' Andrus said. ''We have to put balance in our offense. We lost a power guy (in Cruz), but we know we can create opportunities and score runs. You don't always win games hitting homers.''

Darvish allowed eight hits in his least effective start since returning from the disabled list late last month, but the majors' strikeouts leader still escaped a seventh-inning jam and got the win.

Darvish added six more strikeouts to his total, but also walked three after allowing multiple homers in the same inning for the first time in his major league career. The Japanese right-hander had allowed just one earned run in his previous three starts combined.

Tanner Scheppers pitched two scoreless innings for his first save of the season.

Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout led off the first inning with back-to-back homers for the Angels, who have lost nine of 12. Los Angeles held a closed-doors team meeting after the Rangers schooled them in practically every fine aspect of the game - particularly with those season-worst six stolen bases allowed, which manager Mike Scioscia blamed on the Angels' pitchers, not catcher Chris Iannetta.

''This is about the inability of some of our pitchers to make some adjustments they need to make,'' Scioscia said. ''And the reality of it is, if this is going to become an instructional league, we have to make some changes, because guys up here should be able to do a better job.''

Grant Green had his first two major league hits in his debut for the Angels, who have lost nine of 11 meetings with the division rival Rangers this season. Los Angeles has struggled against aggressive baserunning teams all season, but the Rangers turned it up another notch.

''We've got to do a better job of shutting down the running game as a team,'' Iannetta said. ''That's our focus. They picked their spots really well.''

Calhoun and Trout delivered two-out singles against Darvish in the seventh, but Josh Hamilton flied to center on Darvish's 113th pitch.

Hamilton went 0 for 4 against his former Texas teammates, dropping his average below .220 and making him 2 for 21 on the Angels' homestand. The $125 million outfielder is batting .167 (15 for 90) with runners in scoring position in his first season with Los Angeles.

Garrett Richards allowed six hits and three runs in a decent six-inning start for the Angels, striking out five.

After the Rangers stole two bases and took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Richards' second wild pitch of the inning, Calhoun and Trout quickly evened it with just the second back-to-back leadoff homers in Angels franchise history. Calhoun's homer was the rookie's third in a week, while Trout reached base in his 37th consecutive game with his 19th homer.

Green got his first major league hit in his first plate appearance for the Angels, who acquired the Anaheim native from Oakland last week in a trade for Alberto Callaspo.

With Howie Kendrick sidelined at least until the weekend with a sprained left knee, Green came up from the minors and immediately started at second base.

NOTES: Engel Beltre moved over to right field after David Murphy misplayed two balls at the position Monday night in the Rangers' first game without Cruz. ... The Angels hit back-to-back homers for just the second time all year. Albert Pujols and Hamilton did it July 10. ... Trout is the first player to hit three career homers off Darvish. ... Green went 0 for 15 in his first major league experience with Oakland last month.

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