ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – After two emphatic victories at Angel Stadium, the Texas Rangers’ only remaining competition for another AL West title isn’t looking like much competition at all.
Just don’t expect the Rangers to acknowledge they can see October during an admittedly spectacular August.
Michael Young had three of the Rangers’ 17 hits and drove in three runs, and Texas opened its biggest division lead of the season with a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Derek Holland (11-4) yielded nine hits and fell one out shy of his fifth complete game for the defending AL champions, who have moved six games ahead the struggling Angels with wins in the first two games of this four-game series. Texas has taken control of the division race in the past week with a 4 1/2-game swing, yet the Rangers are playing it cool.
“We want to gain distance and gain a bigger lead against these guys, and they want the same thing,” Holland said. “We’re not going to sit and gloat on it, because they could easily come back.”
Josh Hamilton homered in a three-hit performance before leaving with back spasms, and Mitch Moreland had a two-run single among his three hits in Texas’ fifth straight victory — all on the road.
While Los Angeles has lost four straight for the first time since early June, Texas is a season-best 19 games over .500 (71-52) largely thanks to an offense that has scored at least seven runs in six of the past seven games. Young has six of Texas’ 31 hits in the last two games, including a two-RBI single in the first inning Tuesday night.
“We know we can swing the bats,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “You never think you’re going to come into Anaheim like that and put runs on them, but we’ve got a pretty good offensive team. When you swing the bats like that, everybody feeds off it.”
Texas is in a feeding frenzy midway through the first of three late-season series against the Angels. After jumping to a seven-run lead early in their 8-4 victory in the series opener, the Rangers went ahead 5-0 early Tuesday and took a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning.
Holland won his fifth straight decision, but couldn’t quite finish it. Washington pulled the left-hander after back-to-back run-scoring hits by Hunter and Mark Trumbo with two outs in the ninth, allowing Neftali Feliz to finish.
Torii Hunter had two hits and drove in a run for the punchless Angels, who trailed Texas by just 1 1/2 games a week ago. Los Angeles has lost six of seven since, culminating in back-to-back flops in front of its home fans.
“They’re obviously very, very talented, there’s no doubt about it,” said Trumbo, who had an RBI double in the ninth. “But on any given day, they can lose, too. So it’s up to us to start making a little bit of a statement for ourselves that we are here and that we’re ready to give them a battle. These next two games are very important, obviously. A lot of guys are due, so what better time to start doing it than tomorrow?”
One night after Angels starter Garrett Richards left in the first inning with a groin injury, fellow rookie Tyler Chatwood (6-9) couldn’t get out of the third, yielding eight hits and five runs while dropping to 1-5 over his last eight starts.
After Hamilton put the Rangers up 3-0 with his 15th homer on Chatwood’s first pitch of the third inning, Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli loaded the bases. Moreland’s single chased Chatwood, who was replaced by Trevor Bell, one of two pitchers recalled by the Angels after the bullpen was forced to pitch eight-plus innings Monday.
“Obviously it’s a very important (game), but you just go out there and try to make pitches and keep the team in the game,” Chatwood said. “I didn’t have very good fastball command, and then I had to throw fastballs in fastball counts, and they took advantage of it. That’s a very good lineup and probably one of the top offenses in the league.”
Texas added runs on Yorvit Torrealba’s RBI single in the fifth and Young’s sacrifice fly in the sixth. Only Hunter’s diving catch in the right-field corner prevented even more damage in the Rangers’ sixth-inning rally.
Hamilton was replaced on defense in the eighth inning after grounding into a double play. He said he felt fine in the clubhouse.
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