Rapid Reaction: Angels 5, Rangers 4
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan blew his third save of the season, giving up a two-run double with two outs in the ninth as the Angels came back to win 5-4 in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday. Some quick thoughts:
What it means: The Rangers' magic number to clinch the AL West stays at three as the club has lost the first two games of this series with the Angels. They are two up on the A's as Oakland plays the Seattle Mariners this afternoon. ... The Rangers are now a half-game up on the Orioles and Yankees for the best record in the AL. ... Texas can still clinch a playoff spot with a win in Game 2 of this doubleheader. ... The Rangers can't clinch the AL West today, regardless of later results. ... The Angels clinched the season series, taking a 10-8 lead with tonight's game remaining.
Nathan blows save: For just the third time this season, Nathan blew a save. He got Mark Trumbo to ground out to start the inning, but then gave up a single to Maicer Izturis and walked Chris Iannetta (after getting ahead 0-2) to bring up Mike Trout. Nathan threw him a 3-2 slider and got him on a strikeout. The crowd was standing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (and they were watching in Camden Yards, hoping a Rangers win would clinch a playoff spot for the Orioles) with Torii Hunter up with two outs. But the red-hot Hunter belted a double to left-center to score two runs and turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 advantage.
Hunter at the plate: Hunter made a mistake in the field (see below) but made up for it at the plate. He had four hits, including two doubles. He had two RBIs, both on his final double of the game in the ninth. It didn't matter if Hunter was facing Yu Darvish or Nathan, he got the job done.
Darvish solid again: It wasn't a dominant performance by Darvish standards, but it should have been good enough. The 25-year-old gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings for his eighth consecutive quality start. He had seven strikeouts, but did allow nine hits. That's the most hits allowed by Darvish since he gave up 11 to the Red Sox on Aug. 6. But Darvish pitched out of some jams and kept the Angels from having big innings. He left with a 4-3 lead.
Cruz missile (arm): Nelson Cruz's arm came into play right away. With Trout at second base -- after he walked and then stole second -- Hunter hit a fly ball to right field. Trout decided to try to tag from second, and Cruz threw an absolute bullet to get him. The throw had to be perfect, and it was. Adrian Beltre made a nice play to quickly catch and tag in the same motion to barely get Trout. Angels manager Mike Scoiscia came out to argue the call, but replays appeared to show Beltre barely got Trout before he touched the bag, though it was a very close play.
Cruz missile (bat): Cruz then drilled a Zack Greinke 93 mph fastball over the left-field wall with Beltre standing on base to give Texas a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Cruz has hit 24 homers this season. ... He has homers in two straight games and this season has hit eight homers and has 20 RBIs against the Angels this season. ... The homer put Cruz at the 90-RBI plateau.
Big reversal: Darvish caught Mitch Moreland's flip to first to try to retire the speedy Izturis for the first out of the seventh. Darvish approached the bag awkwardly, but appeared to catch the ball and swipe the bag with his foot in time to get the out. But first base umpire Mark Wegner called him safe. Manager Ron Washington jumped out of the dugout and sprinted to first to argue. Wegner gathered the umpires around and reversed the call. That, naturally, got Scioscia out of his dugout to complain, but replays appeared to show that Darvish did get the out. ... The play ended up becoming an even bigger one when Trout hit a home run later in the inning with no one on. That only pulled the Angels within in one, rather than tying the score.
Speed, wind in third: The speed of Elvis Andrus was on display in the third. He drew a two-out walk on four pitches and was then on the move toward second when Josh Hamilton singled to center. Andrus just kept running and slid home ahead of the throw to put the Rangers up 3-1. They added another run when Belre hit a popup to shallow right that became a double when the wind blew it away from Izturis. Right fielder Hunter never saw the ball and didn't move toward it. When it dropped in, Hamilton scored.
Pujols delivers: Despite not hitting Darvish well this season, Albert Pujols was able to get his bat on a cutter away and send it to right field with two outs in the third inning to score Trout from third. The Angels had three consecutive singles with two outs in that third inning to get their first run.
Great defense: We had back-to-back terrific defensive plays in the game. First, Trout made a diving catch in shallow center field (after he broke back initially and didn't get a great read) to end the seventh and prevent the Rangers from adding to their lead. Then, Beltre made a diving stop on a hard-hit grounder by Kendrys Morales and threw to first to retire him in the eighth. That prevented the leadoff batter from reaching base.
Ogando pitches well: Alexi Ogando came in with the tying run at second and two outs in the seventh and got Pujols to end the inning. He then had a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Jersey change: Greinke pitched the first four innings of Sunday's game with his name spelled incorrectly on the back of his jersey. It was "GRIENKE" until the fifth, when he returned to the mound with a jersey that had "GREINKE" on it.
Tidbits: Andrus was picked off by Greinke in the fifth inning after a two-out single. The Rangers lead the league in getting picked off, doing it 14 times. That's three more than the Mariners. ... Trout becomes the first rookie in big league history to have 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season. ... Andrus had his 17th sacrifice bunt, which leads the league.
Up next: LHP Derek Holland (11-6, 4.50 ERA) is on the mound for the second game of the doubleheader against Ervin Santana (9-12, 4.93 ERA). The game starts at 6:05 p.m. 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.