ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – The Texas Rangers needed a reason to feel good about themselves on getaway day before starting a pivotal six-game homestand that includes a series against the team they’re fighting for the AL West title.
They got it from a bullpen that ate up 5 2-3 innings and prevented a three-game sweep by the Los Angeles Angels, a team they will face in a four-game series that wraps up the regular season schedule.
Alex Rios homered in the first and drove in the go-ahead run with a bloop double in the seventh, Elvis Andrus also had two RBIs, and the Rangers hung on for a 4-3 victory Sunday. They remained 1 1-2 games out of first place, as Oakland beat Houston 7-2.
“It was a very big win. We needed it bad,” manager Ron Washington said. “They took the lead, but we didn’t give in. We just kept fighting and were able to make some good things happen. It’s only one win, but it was huge.”
Angels rookie Buddy Boshers walked Leonys Martin with one out in the seventh and Ian Kinsler greeted Michael Kohn (1-2) with a ground-rule double into the left field corner.
Andrus followed with a looper into right-center and was robbed of a hit on a diving catch by right fielder Kole Calhoun, but Martin scored the tying run on the sacrifice fly.
“You’ve got to find a way to win games, and sometimes it’s going to be with bloopers,” Andrus said. “It was a tremendous play by Martin, to be able to read that flyball and the fielder at the same time and then tag up.”
Center fielder Mike Trout then attempted a diving catch on another Texas leaguer by Rios in left-center, but missed it as Kinsler scored.
“You could call it a break,” Washington said. “Sometimes in a game, you need breaks. But you make your breaks by making contact. And when you make contact, things can happen.”
Alexi Ogando (6-4) got the victory with 1 1-3 scoreless innings.
Neal Cotts gave up a leadoff double in the eighth to Calhoun, who advanced on Mark Trumbo’s groundout and was stranded when Tanner Scheppers struck out Hank Conger with the infield in and retired Grant Green on a flyball to center.
“Trumbo hits the ball to the right side to get the runner to third, and I’m sitting there and saying: `We need a strikeout here,”‘ Washington said. “We got the strikeout, then he made Green put the ball in play and we got a line drive to Martin. There was the good inning right there, and we certainly needed that.”
Joe Nathan, the seventh Rangers pitcher, got three outs in the ninth for his 39th save in 41 attempts and helped them avoid what would have been the Angels’ first three-game sweep against them since September 2009.
“Fortunately we’ve got 12 or 13 guys out there in the `pen, so we’ve got plenty of arms to stretch it out,” Nathan said. “We feel confident in all of those guys — not just to bring them out in the fourth and fifth inning, but to come in late in the game in tight situations. We love when our starters go deep — but when this is what we need to do on a given day, we’re more than glad to do that. We’ve got guys with experience who know how to throw the baseball.”
Rangers rookie Nick Tepesch was charged with two runs and four hits in 3 1-3 innings and struck out five in his first start off the disabled list, after pitching 3 1-3 innings out of the bullpen at Oakland last Monday in his first relief outing in the big leagues. The 24-year-old right-hander was winless in eight consecutive starts before beating Houston on July 5, then was sidelined with inflammation in his elbow.
Tepesch was lifted after 63 pitches with a runner at first and the score tied 1-all. Trumbo was held at third on Conger’s double to left field, and subsequently erased in a rundown on Green’s fielder’s choice grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre. But No. 9 hitter Andrew Romine lined the next pitch down the left field line for a two-run double that put the Angels ahead 3-1.
The Rangers got one of the runs back in the fifth on an Andrus’ RBI single against Jason Vargas, who allowed two runs and six hits over six innings and struck out eight.
Rios, the third batter Vargas faced, homered to left-center for his 16th this season and fourth against the Halos. Kole Calhoun tied it with his sixth of the season leading off the second.
“You never know where numbers are going to end up for a young player, but there’s absolutely no doubt that he has the ability to drive the ball,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s a strong little guy. What his numbers will end up being, that’s just going to be a function of him just continuing to put good swings on the ball.”
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