- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Angels continued to flounder against the Texas Rangers, losing the first game of a pivotal three-game series 11-7 Friday night under swampy conditions at the Ballpark in Arlington.
The Angels are 1-4 in their last five games against Texas and 5-0 against everybody else in the past two weeks. The loss knocked them three games back in the AL West.
Late life. Maybe Angels manager Mike Scioscia finally found the right lineup by the seventh inning. Mike Trout and Russell Branyan came in and sparked a little rally. Branyan smashed a three-run home run off the signs between the first and second decks. Of course, Yoshinori Tateyama might not have been pitching in a closer game.
More Branyan. The less he plays, the better he seems to do. Branyan had home runs in back-to-back pinch-hitting appearances early this month. He's making the most of extremely limited opportunities. He has only had 19 at-bats since July 1.
Surviving. Given the fact it was 96 degrees in the ninth inning, just getting off the field without any health emergencies seems worthy of mention. And, besides, what else was there worth calling "good?"
The Bad (and the ugly):
Tone-setting. This game was an opportunity for the Angels to further the Rangers' misery after they had lost two straight series. Instead, they breathed life back into a fading first-place club. Dan Haren was wobbly from the start, setting an ominous tone. Texas scored twice in the second inning and the Angels never really competed.
Scouting reports? It's hard to know what Angels' pitchers were trying to do with Nelson Cruz, but it clearly didn't work. Coming into this game, Cruz was so cold that Texas manager Ron Washington slid him all the way to No. 7 in the lineup. The Angels might singlehandedly move him back up. Cruz pummeled a pair of home runs, one of which traveled 452 feet, had four hits in his first four at-bats, and drove in six runs.
Focus. The Angels seem to play sharp defense against everybody but Texas these days. They kicked the ball around last week in Anaheim and Erick Aybar made a crushing error in the fifth inning. Mike Napoli hit what looked like an easy double play ball to Howie Kendrick, but Aybar dropped his throw, everybody was safe, and three batters later, David Murphy hit a grand slam.