The Texas Rangers came into the series hosting the Angels at the end of a terrible June. For the month, Texas had a losing record, the worst hitting, and worst on-base percentage. And worst of all they had lost their lead over the Angels.
Monday: L, 2-5 (40-35)
The Rangers jumped out early with back-to-back solo home runs from David Murphy and Marlon Byrd in the third inning. However, for the struggling Rangers' offense, that would be all they would score against the Angels. They went 0-5 with runners in scoring position.
Rangers starter Vicente Padilla held on strong for five innings, but could not record a single out in the top of the sixth before the Angels notched four runs. This was highlighted by a two-run homer from Juan Rivera, followed by a solo shot from Kendry Morales.
Just like all of June, the Rangers' offense failed to continue any momentum, and the starter couldn’t hold a slight lead.
Tuesday: W, 9-5 (41-35)
Now trailing the Angels by 2.5 games, the Rangers needed the bats to come back to life and the starter to last through much of his start. On Tuesday night they got exactly that.
Scott Feldman took the mound, and eventhough he struggled in the second inning by allowing three runs and having a high pitch count, he bounced back to pitch four scoreless innings for the six-inning win.
The Rangers' offense wasted no time scoring three runs off Angels' starter Joe Saunders in the first inning thanks to home runs from Ian Kinsler and Byrd.
Texas took the lead back in the third with a solo shot from Nelson Cruz, his 19th of the season. The Rangers completed the onslaught on Saunders with a four-run fourth inning, highlighted by a three-run bomb from Byrd, his seventh of the season and second of the game.
Texas added another run in the seventh with a solo blast by Murphy, the teams fifth home run of the contest.
Wednesday: W, 9-7 (42-35)
In the rubber match of the series, two of the top six ERA leaders in the AL took to the mound, Kevin Millwood and Jered Weaver. Both pitchers were nearly hitless the first time through the opposing lineups.
The Texas offense struck first in the fourth inning with two runs, highlighted by Hank Blalock’s 15th home run of the season. The Angels cut that deficit in half with a run in the sixth.
But the Rangers blew the game wide open with a five-run sixth inning, giving the Rangers and Millwood a 7-1 lead. But it would not be enough to hold.
Millwood went out for the seventh inning but only recorded one out and was charged with three more Angel runs, bringing the game to a 7-4 lead.
In the ninth Ranger closer Frank Francisco took to the mound to seal the deal, but control issues lead to Vladimir Guerrero at-bat as the tying run with only one out. Francisco was able to strike out the always dangerous Vlad, but could not repeat for the final out against Rivera. The Angel outfielder launched a two-out, three-run, game-tying home run, a severe blow to the Rangers’ hearts and fans' nervous systems.
In the bottom of the ninth Michael Young lead off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Murphy. After Byrd could not drive in the winning run, Blalock took to the plate with two outs. The Hammer delivered with a walk-off home run, his second of the game and 16th of the season.
For the third time in as many series the Rangers took the series win from the Angels and improved their AL West record to 15-4.
Friday: W, 3-1 (43-35)
After facing the might of the Angels, the Rangers got the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays. Lately the Rays have been on a tear, and the Rangers would face them without their aces taking the mound. Instead, they would face two rookies and a pitcher that started the season in the bullpen.
However Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, and Scott Feldman were more than up for the challenge.
Hunter took to the mound in game one on his 23rd birthday and faced off against the hard-throwing lefty Scott Kazmir. Kazmir was good, but Hunter was better.
Kazmir has been dealing with injury issues all season and is beginning to return to his form from the past two seasons. He went six innings, allowing three runs (one earned), on five hits and struck out six. His one big mistake was a fourth inning two-run bomb by Blalock.
Hunter, on the other hand, went 6.1 innings, allowing only one run on three hits and striking out five. After Hunter, the Rangers bullpen of Jason Jennings, CJ Wilson, and Francisco pitched 3.2 innings of hitless, shutout baseball.
Saturday: W, 12-4 (44-35)
Both teams prized pitching possessions took to the mound in Holland and David Price. Holland was again a little shaking giving up seven hits and two long balls, but he threw 56 of his 92 pitches for strikes, went six innings, and allowed only four runs.
Price on the other hand never saw the end of the second inning. He was blasted for six runs on only three hits, but walked five Ranger batters in only 1.1 innings of work. Texas would eventually score seven runs by the end of the third, highlighted by a first inning three-run shot by Andruw Jones.
Jones lead all Ranger hitters going 2-5, one home run, and four RBI. Young also had a good night batting 2-5, scoring twice, and knocking in three runs. Cruz also recorded his team-leading 20th home run of the season in the fifth inning.
The Rangers' offense scored 12 times on 14 hits, five doubles, one triple, and two home runs. They also went a combined 6-15 with runners in scoring position.
Sunday: W, 5-2 (45-35)
In a crazy Sunday, the day started off with Josh Hamilton finding out that he was voted the starting center fielder in the All-Star Game by the fans. Young also made the team as a back-up. But the biggest snubs came when it was announced that Kinsler and Millwood did not make the team. Kinsler still has a chance as he is one of five players that can be voted in by the fans as the 33rd spot on the team.
After that the Rangers took to the field for the Sunday Night Game on ESPN. Texas improved their Sunday night ESPN record to 2-0, as they beat the White Sox earlier in the season.
Texas offense got started early in this one scoring in each of the first four innings. More impressively this win was done without the use of the long ball, Texas scored three times on sacrifice flies.
Three and four hitters Murphy and Byrd highlighted this with a combined 4-5, BB, 3 RBI, and 2 sacrifice flies.
Feldman had another solid outing, going six innings and allowing two runs (one earned). At times he was a little shaky as he walked four Rays, allowed a double steal that lead to both runs, and needed 105 pitches to go six innings.
With the win, Feldman tied his career high with seven wins, the Rangers swept the AL defending champs, and they also tied the Angels atop the AL West.
The final piece of news came later as the Rangers announced with the activation of Hamilton for the series in Los Angeles and Seattle, they would be demoting the season-long slumping Chris Davis.
The Rangers take to Los Angeles tonight for a three-game series against the Angels, followed by four games in Seattle before the All-Star break.
With this five-game winning streak, the Rangers have pulled back to a tie with the Angels (45-35), the Mariners trail both teams by 3.5 at (42-39), and the A’s are all but written off at (34-46)—a total of 11 games back.
The Rangers need a good showing from the offense, continued success from the pitching, and a healthy Josh Hamilton to close out the first part of the season on a winning note before making a run for the division in the second half of the season.
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