Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Angels 1
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Yu Darvish pitched masterfully and Adrian Beltre, who talked his way into the starting lineup Thursday, launched the go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth to guide the Texas Rangers to a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Oakland Athletics salvaged the finale of their three-game series, so the Rangers' lead in the American League West stayed at four games.
Stuff of legend: Beltre missed Wednesday's game with intestinal issues and still appeared bothered by the illness prior to Thursday's game. He was impressive in batting practice, though, hitting a handful of home runs off manager Ron Washington to work his way into the lineup after initially being omitted. As it turned out, he was the hero.
Electric eighth: Darvish struck out the side in the eighth inning with a barrage of breaking pitches. Erick Aybar whiffed through a 3-2 slider, Vernon Wells froze on a 62-mph curve and Chris Iannetta was helpless on another 3-2 slider. Darvish walked off the mound to echoes of "Yuuuuuuuuu!" from the Rangers fans in attendance. He finished with four hits allowed and nine strikeouts in eight innings.
Textbook slide: Nelson Cruz put the Rangers on the board in the fifth inning with a nifty slide past Iannetta's sweeping tag on Geovany Soto's sacrifice fly to right field. Torii Hunter's one-hopper beat Cruz -- and on replay it appeared Cruz never touched home plate -- but umpire Bill Welke called him safe.
Strike 'em out, throw 'em out: Darvish desperately needed a double play to keep the Angels scoreless in the third, but his chances appeared bleak with the speedy Mike Trout up to bat. He got the rally killer anyway, battling back from a 2-and-0 count to strike out Trout and Soto caught Iannetta stealing. Aybar was stranded at third.
Pitch sequencing: Darvish fooled Hunter with a 66-mph floater and then a 93-mph fastball right down the middle in the fourth. An inning later, he threw a filthy 68-mph slider on a 3-2 count to Howard Kendrick. His mix of pitches was superb.
Bullet dodged: Craig Gentry, Josh Hamilton's understudy in center, twisted his ankle in the third inning while rounding first base on a deep fly out. He eased up once the ball was caught but limped back to the dugout and remained in the game.
Homeward bound: Hamilton planned to take batting practice but experienced the same symptoms that forced him out of Tuesday's opener. He was set to fly back to Texas to be examined by team doctors, and possibly rejoin the Rangers in Seattle later in the weekend if things check out fine.
Up next: Newly-anointed fifth starter Martin Perez (1-1, 3.38 ERA) will make his first start since July 24 on Friday against the Seattle Mariners and right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5, 3.39). First pitch is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. on ESPN 103.3 FM and TXA-21.
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.