ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – The Texas Rangers had already knocked the Los Angeles Angels down with nearly six months of superior play, so they betrayed no particular excitement about finally knocking out their biggest division rivals.
Adrian Beltre hit a two-run homer, Michael Young added an eighth-inning RBI single, and Texas eliminated the Angels from the playoff race with a 4-3 victory Monday night.
Elvis Andrus had four hits for the AL West champion Rangers (94-66), who have won eight of nine. Texas also stayed one game ahead of Detroit (93-67) for the league’s second-best record and home-field advantage in this weekend’s division series — and the Rangers did it with one last blow to the club that dominated this division before the Rangers’ rise last year.
“We get no pleasure in (eliminating the Angels),” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “Our pleasure is just in continuing to win ballgames and move forward.”
Peter Bourjos had a run-scoring single in the ninth for the Angels, who began the night three games behind the wild card-leading Red Sox with three to play. Although Boston’s woes provided an opportunity, Los Angeles has fallen apart with seven losses in 11 games.
When Neftali Feliz struck out All-Star Howie Kendrick to finish his 31st save, the Rangers quietly celebrated a victory that keeps them rolling toward another postseason run.
“We’re not celebrating that we eliminated the Angels, or have any hard feelings toward them,” said David Murphy, who had two hits. “This is just another good win for us to get us where we want to go.”
Dan Haren (16-10) yielded nine hits over eight innings in his first home loss since June 7.
The Angels will miss the playoffs for the second straight year. Los Angeles had made six of the previous eight postseasons, starting with the Angels’ only World Series triumph in 2002.
Los Angeles had an abundance of chances to stay in this race, too. A day after blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning of a gut-wrenching home loss to lowly Oakland, the Angels couldn’t capitalize on a deliberately short start by C.J. Wilson, with five Texas relievers outpitching Haren.
“Realistically, our chances were very slim coming into the game, but the game still did mean something,” said Haren, who lost for the first time all season when pitching at least eight innings. “We knew what was going on and that Boston lost, so there was a sense of urgency. We just couldn’t do it. I gave up too many runs.”
Wilson, a 16-game winner, yielded two hits and two walks while working two innings, tuning up before starting Texas’ AL division series opener Friday. Rookie Mark Hamburger (1-0) followed with 3 2-3 effective innings, earning his first major league victory in his first appearance since Sept. 10.
“It’s just another step in the road,” Hamburger said. “I’m not looking at it statistics-wise. Somebody said, ‘Only 299 more, and you can be in the Hall.’ … We know the situation we’re in, and we just needed a win.”
The Rangers have won 16 of 22 in their stellar September, but must keep pushing to hold off AL Central champion Detroit, which beat Cleveland 14-0 and holds the tiebreaker over Texas after winning the season series.
“What’s more important is my guys got rest,” Washington said. “I think we all want to be at home (for the division series), but not at the expense of making sure we’re ready Friday.”
Texas has won two straight AL West titles after Los Angeles won the four-team division in five of the previous six seasons. The Rangers’ victory also clinched the season series against the Angels for the third straight year.
“It hurts all of us in this clubhouse,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We battled this year. We had a lot of mountains to climb. The young guys in here, they carried us all year, so the future is bright. I know we’re eliminated, but we had 86 wins, and we’re only going to get better from there, so expect us to be in contention next year.”
Haren struck out eight, but gave up an unearned run in the first inning when Ian Kinsler led off with a single and scored on catcher Jeff Mathis’ passed ball and throwing error. Beltre connected off Haren for his 31st homer in the fourth inning, giving him 27 RBIs in September.
Hamburger gave up just two hits in his fifth career appearance, but Los Angeles finally got rolling in the sixth inning when Hunter doubled and scored on Mike Trout’s single off former Angels reliever Darren Oliver.
Pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu then drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to trim Texas’ lead to 3-2, but Koji Uehara induced an inning-ending popup from Maicer Izturis.
Young padded the Rangers’ lead in the eighth with his first hit in four plate appearances against Haren. He’ll probably lose the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who went 3 for 5 against Cleveland.
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