Halos drop Hamilton's Texas homecoming
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Manager Mike Scioscia and Josh Hamilton agreed that it's much too soon to reach for panic buttons. That's for fans who live for today and don't care much about tomorrow or a week from Thursday.
"You can't dissect anyone's season in four games," Scioscia said, his Angels having fallen for the third time in four outings when a 3-2 decision was captured by the Rangers on Friday with some late offense at Rangers Ballpark.
Ian Kinsler's two-out opposite-field single off Scott Downs cashed in Craig Gentry with the decisive run in the bottom of the eighth inning. The big, loud crowd, numbering 48,845, let loose with some positive energy at last when Joe Nathan got the final three outs.
"I'll tell you one thing," Scioscia said. "They definitely showed some passion."
Much of it was directed at Hamilton in the form of boos and chants of an unkind nature. A superstar in the Lone Star State for five years, an American League Most Valuable Player who helped lift the franchise to previously unvisited heights, he's the enemy now in Angels attire -- and the folks who used to cheer him vented in no uncertain terms.
"It kind of hurts to think they'd turn on you," Hamilton said. "I still want to live here. Texas is home. Fans are fans. It's not going to stop me from signing autographs, putting scripture on everything."
Adrian Beltre's solo homer off Garrett Richards pulled the Rangers even in the seventh after Jason Vargas, in his Angels debut, had delivered 5 2/3 gritty innings.
Chris Iannetta, the Angels' hottest hitter, homered for the second time, in the third. Mike Trout doubled home a run for the lead in the fifth, after which the Angels did not advance a runner into scoring position against starter Derek Holland, reliever Tanner Scheppers and Nathan.
Downs' loss was his second. The veteran southpaw yielded a one-out single to Gentry, who stole second and raced home on Kinsler's second hit of the day. Hamilton couldn't reach Gentry's soft fly ball.
"The reason I didn't dive," Hamilton said, "is he's on third if I dive and don't catch it. I'd rather keep him at first. He's fast."
With better luck, Vargas would have been beaming in the aftermath. The tough-minded lefty used all of his guile and experience to hold the Rangers to a run on eight hits and two walks, striking out four.
"I felt like it was good," Vargas said. "We made some good [defensive] plays, and they dumped some balls in to put some pressure on us. You can rely on something you've experienced before to try to slow it down and don't let it get out of control."
Beltre, with an infield hit to show for three at-bats against the veteran, was happy to see Vargas depart.
"He's always tough on me," Beltre said. "He grinds your at-bats, in and out, changing speeds. He knows how to pitch. He's always tough."
Richards, who came on after Kevin Jepsen got the final out in the sixth, is a young right-hander with star-quality stuff. He just happened to err in location against a man who has spent his career launching pitches good and bad into the seats.
"Garrett didn't make many mistakes," Scioscia said, "but he made one, and Adrian didn't miss it. It was a fastball, middle in."
It was supposed to be down and away.
Holland was Vargas' match, holding the Angels to six hits and one walk with five strikeouts in his seven innings.
In the matchup that had fans lathered up, Holland struck out Hamilton in the second and fourth innings and later retired him on a line drive to right. In his final at-bat, in the ninth against Nathan, Hamilton flied to center.
"I had an idea what the Rangers, what Holland wanted to do," Hamilton said. "I was a little jumpy."
Hamilton settled down in his final two plate appearances and felt more like himself, but with nothing to show for it. Albert Pujols also was hitless, with a walk. Hamilton is now 1-for-16, Pujols 1-for-14. The team is hitting .219 with 13 runs in four games.
"There's nothing to overreact to," Scioscia said. "Albert's hit some shots, and Josh is trying to get his feet settled. We just haven't put together the offensive games this team's capable of, back to back."
Trout's two-out rocket off the wall in left in the fifth -- "too much top spin" to clear it, he said -- followed singles by Alberto Callaspo and Iannetta. But Callaspo, in a costly move, was picked off by deception, the Rangers aligned in anticipation of a bunt.
"Alberto got too aggressive and didn't react," Scioscia said.
The Rangers took the lead in the bottom of the second when Nelson Cruz doubled and scored after A.J. Pierzynski's drive down the right-field line bounded past Hamilton for a triple.
"I was playing it to ride around the wall like it normally does," Hamilton said. "It hit the one spot where it shoots back out."
It was that kind of day for Josh.
Showing his resolve, Vargas stranded Pierzynski at third. The Rangers' frustration then mounted, until Beltre unloaded and Kinsler took Downs the other way to win it.