ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) – Matt Harrison has allowed just four home runs over his last 13 starts, and three of them have been by the Los Angeles Angels.
Bobby Wilson hit his first of the season leading off the seventh inning against Harrison on Sunday night, sending the Texas Rangers’ left-hander to the showers in a 7-4 loss.
“The biggest mistake was that fastball to Wilson in the seventh,” Harrison said. “I dropped my guard on him and tried to throw a strike in there on 2-0.”
Harrison (12-5) gave up four runs and eight hits in six-plus innings after going the distance in his previous two outings, including a five-hit shutout last Sunday at Seattle. He was attempting to tie fellow All-Stars R.A. Dickey and David Price for the major league lead in victories and become the first Rangers pitcher with three consecutive complete games since Kenny Rogers in May 1994.
“There were a lot of pressure at-bats, with guys on base pretty much every inning,” Harrison said. “I had to battle the whole game. They were swinging the bats tonight, and I was just trying to minimize the damage as much as possible and keep the game close.”
Rookie sensation Mike Trout led off the Angels’ first with a triple into the right-field corner and came home on Albert Pujols’ ground-rule double into the left field corner. The Angels increased their lead to 3-0 in the second when Alberto Callaspo scored on a passed ball and Maicer Izturis came home on Wilson’s single.
“Harrison put up four zeros up after that and kept us in the ballgame, but the bullpen just couldn’t shut it down,” manager Ron Washington said.
The Angels tacked on three runs in the seventh — including Pujols’ 18th homer, a two-run shot off Alexi Ogando that followed a single by Torii Hunter.
“I was just looking for a zone,” Pujols said. “I faced him yesterday and he threw me some tough pitches. So I just tried to be aggressive, like I always am, and look for a pitch to hit that was up. I was able to put my best swing of the night on it, and it gave us a little cushion.”
Michael Young’s RBI single in the eighth off Scott Downs got the Rangers a run closer, but Hunter got it back with an RBI single in the eighth.
Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, in a non-save situation, relieved Downs with one on and no outs in the ninth after David Murphy reached on Downs’ throwing error. Frieri walked two of his first three batters, loading the bases, and Elvis Andrus drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. But Frieri came back to strike out Josh Hamilton for the final out.
Hamilton came up empty in four opportunities with runners in scoring position during the series, and is 0 for 15 this month in those situations.
“He just wasn’t very good tonight, but I’ll take him in that situation every single night, whether he’s struggling or swinging well — because he can make a difference with one swing of the bat,” Washington said. “We were in a good position with the right guy up there, and he just didn’t get it done. But you’ve got to give Frieri credit. He did what he had to do to get out of it.”
The two-time defending AL champion Rangers ended their road trip 4-4 and their lead over the Angels in the AL West was reduced to five games. The teams play each other 10 more times during the regular season, including a four-game series at Texas beginning July 30.
“We’re still in first place, so we’re all right,” Washington said. “They won the series, but I don’t have to worry about them again until next week. We’ve got Boston coming into our place, and that’s where our focus is.”
Dan Haren (7-8) pitched effectively for the Angels in his first start off the disabled list. The three-time All-Star threw 95 pitches over six innings, allowing two runs, three hits and three walks while striking out three.
Haren, whose streak of 254 consecutive starts ended because of tightness in his lower back after his outing on July 3, had to contort himself to get out of the way of a vicious line-drive single by Michael Young that buzzed past his head with one out in the fourth.
“I actually saw it come off the bat, and I don’t know how it missed me,” Haren said. “I don’t know how close it was, but I could hear it go by me. When I was laying on the ground, I took a deep breath and got back up there. It was scary. That ball was coming at me at over a hundred miles an hour. But if I get hit, I get hit. I can’t think about that.”
Three pitches later, Nelson Cruz drove his 12th homer halfway up the batter’s eye in center field to cut Texas’ deficit to 3-2. It was Cruz’s first homer on the road since June 3 at Angel Stadium, when he hit a mammoth two-run shot to left-center against reliever Bobby Cassevah that was estimated at 484 feet and reached the championship flagpoles on the fly.
Trout scored a run in his 14th consecutive game, setting an AL rookie record and an overall Angels franchise mark. The 20-year-old outfielder, who played in his first All-Star game less than two weeks ago, leads the majors in runs (70) and stolen bases (31), and is hitting an AL-best .355 — despite spending almost the entire first month of the season in the minors.
“He’s not Willie Mays,” Washington said. “How long has he been in the big leagues? I mean, he’s a pretty good player, but I think the comparisons have got to stop. Let that kid play. When he’s been here about five or six years, then you can start doing that.”
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