ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Mike Napoli broke a tie in the ninth inning with his fourth homer in two games, and the Texas Rangers finally clinched home-field advantage in the AL division series with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
Napoli, the longtime Angels catcher, also homered in the second inning as the Rangers set a franchise record with their 96th victory — including six straight heading into the postseason.
With 14 wins in their final 16 games, the Rangers (96-66) held off Detroit (95-67) for the right host the wild-card winner at
Rangers Ballpark on Friday.
Gil Velasquez drove in the only run for the Angels, who were in playoff contention until Monday. Los Angeles (86-76) lost six of its last seven.
With 10 wins in their last 11 regular-season games, the Rangers broke the 1999 club’s mark for victories, improving their record for the fourth straight season under manager Ron Washington.
The Rangers collected their luggage in a loose pile in the center of their locker room at Angel Stadium before the game even though they still didn’t know where they would spend the weekend.
C.J. Wilson will start Friday’s division series opener in Arlington, and Washington said Derek Holland will start Game 2.
Seven innings after Napoli homered over the ficus trees in deepest center field, he connected in the ninth off Angels rookie
closer Jordan Walden (5-5), capping his career year with another huge game at the park he once called home.
Mike Adams (2-3) pitched the eighth, and Neftali Feliz picked up his 32nd save.
Texas left-hander Matt Harrison yielded five hits and a run in six innings during a strong tuneup for the postseason, while
Garrett Richards pitched five innings of two-hit ball in his third career start for the Angels.
Napoli hit six homers this season at Angel Stadium — three more than Bobby Abreu, who struck out to end the game for Los Angeles.
Napoli went deep four times in his final 14 innings against the Angels, who traded him in a package for Vernon Wells last winter.
Napoli finished with career-highs of 30 homers and 75 RBIs in Texas, while Wells finished a dismal season by going 1 for 4 — and the three catchers who replaced Napoli have all been offensive disasters.
The Angels wrapped up their 50th anniversary season by missing the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2000-01, manager Mike Scioscia’s first two years in charge. Los Angeles still had the AL’s sixth-best record, winning at least 80 games for the eighth straight season — easily the best stretch in franchise history.
Before the game, Scioscia bristled at the suggestion Los Angeles wasn’t going all-out to beat the Rangers — to the detriment of the Tigers. Angels starters Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick, Maicer Izturis and Abreu all were out of the lineup Wednesday night, while 18-game winner Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana were scratched from
their final starts.
Scioscia insisted every missing regular had a legitimate injury, while Weaver was “at heightened risk” after pitching hard down the stretch.
“We absolutely understand the integrity of the game and how important it is,” Scioscia said in a rare burst of passion from the Angels’ cool bench boss. “We’re putting out the talent that we can to try to win ballgames. There’s no doubt that the integrity of the game is something we take very seriously. We went as hard as we could, as long as we could.”
Richards, a first-round draft pick in 2009, made the best appearance of his short major-league career in his first start
since Aug. 15. He issued three walks, but paid for only one bad pitch when Napoli homered in the second.
NOTES: Texas CF Josh Hamilton’s nine-game hitting streak ended…. Angels 1B Efren Navarro’s third-inning single was his first major league hit. Navarro, a native of nearby Lynwood with 15 family members in attendance, played the final two games at first base with rookie slugger Mark Trumbo shut down for the season with a broken foot. … Trumbo officially became the first rookie to lead the Angels in homers (29) and RBIs (87). Four of the last five AL rookies to accomplish that feat won the Rookie of the Year award. … The Angels drew more than 3 million fans for the ninth straight season, finishing with 3,166,321. They even outdrew the crosstown Dodgers, who didn’t crack 3 million. … Texas DH Michael Young went 1 for 4 with a ninth-inning single, ending his faint hopes of catching Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera for the AL batting
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)