ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — It’s beyond crowded in the American League wild-card race, with eight teams bunched up like flowers in an overflowing vase.
The Los Angeles Angels were the most recent club to make some noise, winning nine of 11 to slip into the second spot.
But the Texas Rangers still believe they can make a run, and Monday night they took a step in that direction with a 5-3 victory over the Angels behind Adrian Beltre’s three-run homer and seven strong innings from Cole Hamels.
“We have to beat every team,” Hamels said. “If we want to stay in this wild-card race, we have a lot of different teams we have to beat. It doesn’t matter what teams we’re facing, we just have to win series.”
Hamels (9-1) did his part, allowing two runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out three. Alex Claudio got four outs to earn his seventh save, despite giving up an RBI single to Mike Trout in the ninth.
The loss dropped the Angels a half-game back of Minnesota for the second AL wild card. The Rangers closed within two games of the final playoff berth. Eight teams are within four games of each other.
“We’re chasing these guys,” Beltre said. “It’s nice to get the first one out of the way and try to win the series.”
The game was tied 1-all going into the third when the Rangers took the lead on Shin-Soo Choo’s double off Tyler Skaggs (1-4) just beyond the glove of left fielder Cameron Maybin and off the wall, driving in the go-ahead run.
After Skaggs hit Elvis Andrus with a pitch, Beltre hit his 14th home run this season and the 459th of his career, tying Miguel Cabrera for 37th all-time.
“Just a poor performance today,” Skaggs said. “This loss is on me. I really wanted to go out there and make a good start for my team, and right from the first batter, it wasn’t meant to be.”
Skaggs was making his fourth start since missing more than three months due to an oblique strain. He was charged with five runs — four earned — in 5 1/3 innings. The left-hander gave up four hits, walked one and hit two batters with pitches.
“He’s not that far off,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But Tyler can get better. Right now he’s still kind of getting into his season and trying to re-establish everything he needs to do. He’ll be an important part of our stretch run.”
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