- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angles used an eight-run explosion in the fourth inning and a solid outing by ace Jered Weaver to keep pace in the wild-card race with an 11-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
It was the fourth victory in five games for the Angels (81-67), who began the day three games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild-card spot.
The Angels, who have 14 games left in the regular season, are 19-7 since Aug. 21.
The fourth: The Angels scored eight runs in the fourth inning, capitalizing on three walks, a hit batter, a wild pitch and an error. The runs weren’t all gifts from the Rangers, however, as Chris Iannetta blasted a two-run single off of the right-field wall, Howard Kendrick lined a run-scoring single to left and Alberto Callaspo had a clutch, two-out double to right. In all, the Angels sent 11 men to the plate and Texas used three pitchers in the inning.
Aybar on fire: Shortstop Erick Aybar had another three-hit game, his third in the past four games. He reached base four times, scored twice and drove in a run. Aybar has at least one hit in 16 of his past 17 games and is batting .379 (58-for-153) since the beginning of August. He is batting .348 (64-for-184) since the All-Star break -- the highest batting average ever by an Angels shortstop after the break.
Aces up: Jered Weaver wasn’t at the top of his game early on, but he did what the ace of a staff is supposed to do in a big game: win. He gave up six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in seven innings. Texas blasted two home runs against him in the third inning, but Weaver induced inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth innings to end Texas rallies, and he really settled in after the Angels handed him a big lead in the fourth. Weaver (18-4) was perfect in the sixth and seventh innings as he matched his career high for wins.
Three bad pitches: Weaver made three noticeable mistakes, and they happened to come on successive pitches in the top of the third inning, when Texas scored three runs. Mike Napoli blasted a slider for a moon-shot home run to center that tied the score at 1-1, then Mitch Moreland lined a first-pitch fastball to left for a single and Ian Kinsler followed by ripping a first-pitch fastball to left for a two-run home run and a 3-1 Texas lead.
Trumb-oh-fer: Mark Trumbo appears to be taking some better swings but went 0-for-4 Tuesday to continue a month-long slump. The home run he hit Sunday in Kansas City remains his only extra-base hit since Aug. 21. Trumbo, batting .174 (27-for-155) over the past 39 games, was the only Angels starter who did not reach base Tuesday and he was the only Angels player who did not score in the eight-run fourth. He had the dreaded distinction of making the first and third outs in that inning and left five men on base for the game.
The thorn: Angels pitchers continue to struggle against Napoli, a one-time Angles catcher. Napoli’s towering home run against Weaver in the third inning was his fourth of the season against the Angels and the 10th of his career. Napoli was 2-for-3 Tuesday, raising his season average to .475 against the Angels. Since the beginning of 2011, when Napoli joined the Rangers, he is batting .431 with nine home runs and 13 RBIs at Angel Stadium.
The bizarre: In one of baseball’s bizarre moments, reliever Tanner Scheppers uncorked a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth and the Angels scored two runs on it. Iannetta scored easily from third and took out Scheppers covering at the plate. Napoli retrieved the ball and threw off-balance toward the plate. The ball appeared to hit the plate umpire and fell to the ground. Scheppers was still on the ground, injured during Iannetta’s slide, and nobody was able to retrieve the loose ball before Mike Trout, who started on second base, also crossed the plate to give the Angels a 5-3 lead.
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