Rapid Reaction: Rangers 15, Angels 9
What it means: The Rangers and Angels split the four-game series, which means Texas is five games up on them in the AL West -- right where they were four days ago. Oakland could move ahead of the Angels and would still be 4½ games out if they beat Toronto. The Rangers and Angels have six more games left against each other, all in late September. Texas is 6-7 against the Angels in 2012. The Angels scored 19 runs the past two games and lost them both.
Dempster's debut: It was not the kind of start Ryan Dempster wanted for his first outing as a Texas Ranger. He gave up eight runs on nine hits with three walks and six strikeouts and lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Dempster allowed two home runs and couldn't hold a 6-2 lead after the second inning. Of the nine hits allowed, six were for extra-base hits. He fell behind too many hitters and dealt with men on base constantly. His only clean inning was a 1-2-3 second frame.
Offense rolls again: So maybe a huge comeback is what the Rangers' offense needed to really get going. After scoring 81 runs in July (no other AL team had fewer), the Rangers have scored 26 runs and have 35 hits in the first two games of August. It took them until the 11th game of July to score that many. The more telling stat on Thursday? Texas was 11-for-23 (.478) with runners in scoring position, which has been a big issue the last two months.
Hamilton delivers: Josh Hamilton, who has swooned with the offense the past two months, had some good at-bats and put some nice swings on the ball. He was 2-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. His two-out, ground-rule double in the seventh pushed the lead to four runs, giving the Rangers' bullpen a nice cushion. The only other time since June 1 that Hamilton has had more than two RBIs was June 30, when he also had four against the Oakland A's.
Top of the order: Ian Kinsler was all over Thursday's box score. He had a leadoff homer, had three hits, a walk, four runs scored and two RBIs. It seems that when he's on base, good things happen to the Rangers' offense. The Nos. 1-3 hitters in the lineup accounted for eight RBIs on seven hits.
Starting struggles: Dempster's start was just the latest in a string of struggles for Rangers starters. Texas starters in this series: 21 2/3 IP, 29 H, 29 ER, 9 HR, 13 BB, 22 K. That's a 12.05 ERA. Yet the Rangers went 2-2 in the series.
Welcome to the big leagues: Mike Olt made his big league debut with his parents in the front row, a few seats down from Nolan Ryan in the owner's box. Olt singled on the second pitch he saw in the majors, sending a C.J. Wilson cutter to left field. A terrific, extended catch by Angels SS Andrew Romine took a hit away from Olt in the third. Olt ended up 1-for-3 before he was taken out for pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland in the seventh.
Small and long ball in first: Mike Trout, the AL player and rookie of the month for July, started the game off with a double to center. He moved to third on Torii Hunter's sacrifice bunt and then scored when Albert Pujols hit a sacrifice fly to right. Mark Trumbo showed Dempster what a jet-stream homer looks like at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on an opposite-field fly ball to right that just kept going and ended up barely over the right-field fence (350 feet). The early runs put the Angels up 2-0 before Wilson took the mound.
Leadoff blast: Kinsler led off the Rangers' half of the first inning with a 412-foot home run into the Angels' bullpen. It was the 24th leadoff homer of his career as he continues to build on his club record. Kinsler has four leadoff homers in 2012.
Second-inning success: The Rangers didn't waste any time in taking the lead, scoring four runs in the second inning. Newest Rangers Geovany Soto and Olt got things started with consecutive singles (it was the first hit in a Rangers uniform for both) and Craig Gentry was hit by a pitch as he tried to bunt the runners over to load the bases with two outs. Wilson wasn't able to work out of the jam. Kinsler's single to left scored one run and Hamilton's ground-ball single to right scored two more. Michael Young added to the damage with a two-out, two-run single to center.
Big hits with RISP: Hamilton had just one hit in his previous 23 at-bats with runners in scoring positioin before a two-run single in the second to break a 2-2 tie. Young's hit up the middle was his first of the season with the bases loaded. He was 0-for-8 prior to the two-run, two-out single. Both Hamilton and Young got their hits on the first pitch. The hits with RISP kept coming, including Moreland's go-ahead RBI single in the seventh.
Patient and aggressive approach: Perhaps the best sign of the offense's confidence level rising was that the Rangers showed a mixture of patience and aggression. They took some walks and got into some deep counts, but also got hits by swinging at pitches to hit early in the count.
Boomstick: Nelson Cruz's home run in the fourth was his sixth homer in his past 11 games after not hitting a homer in the 21 previous games. He had five home runs during this homestand, including two in the series with the Angels.
Oswalt in relief: Roy Oswalt came in and pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen Thursday. It was his first relief appearance since Oct. 3, 2010 at Atlanta, though that was just a quick tune-up prior to the playoffs. His last relief appearance in the middle of the season was July 17, 2007 at Washington when he worked one-third of an inning. Oswalt's last bullpen duty of at least two innings in the regular season was May 22, 2001 versus San Diego (he did make a two-inning postseason relief appearance in 2004). He looked good in that role Thursday. The bullpen as a whole did the job on Thursday as Robbie Ross, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan gave up just one run in 4 1/3 scoreless innings (it was a two-out homer by Alberto Callaspo in the ninth).
Wilson matches Dempster: It was not a good night for starting pitching. Wilson wasn't any better than Dempster. In fact, their final lines look similar. Wilson gave up eight runs on 10 hits with three walks, seven strikeouts, two homers, a hit batter and a balk. ESPN Stats & Information fact: Wilson made 38 starts at home with the Rangers and allowed eight earned runs once. He allows eight on Thursday in his third start at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with the Angels.
Up next: LHP Matt Harrison (12-6, 3.19 ERA) will be on the mound in Kansas City on Friday against RHP Jeremy Guthrie (3-11, 6.68 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. CT on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and FSSW.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.
Play Podcast ESPN Insider and senior MLB analyst Jim Bowden joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the wild-card race and the Rangers' chances of making the playoffs.
Play Podcast Chuck Cooperstein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why he feels Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish isn't an ace.
Play Podcast Elvis Andrus joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Rangers' stretch run and the morale level in their clubhouse.
Play Podcast Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss the latest Rangers news, including the team's struggles, Ron Washington's job security and a rumored trade with the Braves.
Play Podcast Ron Washington joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss the Rangers' dismal September, who's to blame for their September struggles and his status as the team's manager.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss how some people are calling for the Rangers to fire manager Ron Washington.