ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Adrian Beltre hit a tie-breaking two-run homer off Angels closer Ernesto Frieri in the ninth inning, and the Texas Rangers dealt yet another blow to Los Angeles’ fading playoff hopes with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.
Yu Darvish (16-9) held the Angels to four hits and struck out nine in a scintillating eight-inning duel with Zack Greinke, who gave up five hits and struck out eight.
Beltre then rewarded Darvish with his 34th homer to left field off Frieri (3-2), who wasted a phenomenal start by Greinke for the second time in six days.
Texas (89-60) improved the AL’s best record and stayed four games ahead of Oakland (85-64) in the AL West by taking two of three from the Angels.
Los Angeles (81-69) dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Athletics and Baltimore in the AL wild-card standings. Oakland beat Detroit earlier, and the Orioles were idle.
Joe Nathan gave up a two-out double to Albert Pujols in the ninth, but got Kendrys Morales on a fly to finish his 34th save.
Beltre missed Wednesday’s game and nearly sat out Thursday with abdominal troubles before talking his way into the lineup during batting practice. He went 0 for 3 against Greinke, but smashed an apparent hanging slider from Frieri after Michael Young’s leadoff single.
The Rangers won their second straight game without slugger Josh Hamilton, who will return to Texas for further examination of a sinus condition. Hamilton left Tuesday’s game in the fourth inning with the problem, saying his entire family has been under the weather for several days.
Nelson Cruz had two hits and scored the first run in the fifth inning for the Rangers, but Los Angeles tied it in the sixth on Torii Hunter’s grounder. Neither team managed an extra-base hit in the first eight innings.
Darvish was largely un-hittable for the fifth consecutive start, repeatedly mixing 95-mph fastballs and 65-mph breaking balls while retiring 14 of the Angels’ first 16 hitters.
But Greinke didn’t lose his rhythm after Frieri gave away his last outing in spectacular fashion. The normally reliable closer gave up two homers in four pitches while blowing a two-run lead in the ninth after he took over for Greinke, who had thrown 109 pitches — the same number he had through eight innings Thursday.
After a slow start in Orange County, Greinke has been everything the Angels anticipated when they acquired him in July from Milwaukee, going 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last six starts while holding every opponent to two runs or fewer. He didn’t walk a Texas batter, never even getting into a three-ball count until the seventh inning.
Cruz and David Murphy led off the fifth with singles for Texas. Geovany Soto hit a medium-length fly to left, but Cruz beat Hunter’s strong throw with a wide slide touching the plate with his hand.
After slumping All-Star Mark Trumbo delivered a leadoff single in the sixth, pinch-runner Peter Bourjos reached third on Chris Iannetta’s single. Mike Trout struck out, but Hunter’s broken-bat grounder dawdled on the grass just long enough to allow Bourjos to score the tying run.
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