ANAHEIM -- Adrian Beltre crushed a three-run home run and Cole Hamels pitched seven strong innings as the Rangers defeated the Angels, 5-3, in Monday night's series opener at Angel Stadium to tighten the American League Wild Card race.With the win, the Rangers (62-62) pulled within two games of the
ANAHEIM -- Adrian Beltre crushed a three-run home run and Cole Hamels pitched seven strong innings as the Rangers defeated the Angels, 5-3, in Monday night's series opener at Angel Stadium to tighten the American League Wild Card race.
With the win, the Rangers (62-62) pulled within two games of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot and knocked the Angels a half-game behind Minnesota in the standings. Entering Monday, the Angels (64-61) had held a Wild Card spot since Aug. 12.
"We both know we are obviously hunting for the same stuff," Beltre said. "We are chasing them. It's going to be a tough situation for us to climb up the Wild Card, but we have to do it by winning series and today was a good start."
Texas broke a 1-1 tie by scoring four runs in the third, highlighted by Beltre's no-doubter off Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs.
Hamels made sure the Rangers never trailed after that, holding the Angels to two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out three. The only damage the Angels mustered against Hamels came via Martin Maldonado's RBI single in the second and C.J. Cron's run-scoring fielder's choice in the sixth.
"We just didn't get the key hit with runners in scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We got a couple of them, but for only three runs and not many hits, we had a lot of action out there. We did a good job in getting on base. We ran the bases well. We just couldn't get that key hit."
The Angels cut the deficit to 5-3 after Michael Trout delivered a two-out RBI single in the ninth, but Alex Claudio induced a groundout from Jose Pujols to strand a pair of runners and complete a four-out save.
"It's good to have a guy like Claudio who can go and get more than three outs for you," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Typically, he keeps the ball on the ground, doesn't walk anybody and he's got ice water in his veins."
Skaggs, who was activated off the bereavement list on Monday, surrendered five runs (four earned) on four hits while walking one and striking out four over 5 1/3 innings. In four starts since coming off the disabled list, Skaggs has recorded a 3.86 ERA over 20 2/3 innings.
"He's not that far off, but he can get better, no doubt," Scioscia said of Skaggs. "He's going to work hard and get there. We have a lot of confidence in him, but right now he's still kind of getting into his season and trying to reestablish everything he needs to do. He'll be important for us down the stretch, for sure."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Texas' big 3rd: Beltre's three-run homer off Skaggs capped a four-run outburst in the third, snapping a 1-1 tie and putting the Rangers ahead, 5-1. Shin-Soo Choo ignited the big inning by belting a double off the top of the left-field wall -- just over the glove of Cameron Maybin -- to score Delino DeShields from second. Skaggs then hit Elvis Andrus on the forearm to bring up Beltre, who launched a 1-1 fastball to left-center field to collect his 14th home run of the season and pad the Rangers' lead.
"It's incredible," Banister said of Beltre's night. "Look, we rely on Adrian every single night he's in the baseball game to do big things for us, especially when we're down a couple players like we are now. He showed he's a veteran player who loves to be in those type of situations."
"I thought I made some good pitches," Skaggs said. "One pitch that I wanted to go outside, I left it in the middle. If you're going to the Hall of Fame, you're not going to miss those pitches."
Claudio saves Leclerc: Rookie right-hander Jose Leclerc was called on to pitch the eighth in a 5-2 game. Leclerc walked three of five batters -- he struck out Trout and retired Pujols on a fly to center -- and left with the bases loaded. Claudio had to take over and retired Jefry Marte on a grounder to short to end the inning. More >
"He has been money for us all year," Beltre said. "I don't know where we would be without him. He has been the MVP for us so far this year."
"I think this series looks like it's supposed to be very important, but we have to beat every team. If we want to stay in this Wild Card race and ultimately be one of those top Wild Card teams, we have a lot of different teams we have to beat." -- Hamels, on the importance of the series against the Angels in the Wild Card race
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Beltre's homer marked his 3,023rd career hit, tying him with Lou Brock for 26th on the all-time list. Beltre's 459 career home runs are also tied with Jose Cabrera for 37th all-time.
Banister won a challenge at a pivotal spot in the sixth inning following a line drive off the bat of Andrelton Simmons. Left fielder Ryan Rua fumbled Simmons' liner and it was initially ruled an error as Cron advanced to second with a run already across in the inning. But after a review of just over 2 minutes, the call was overturned for the second out and Cron was forced to retreat to first base.
Rangers:Tyson Ross will look to get back on track for the Rangers on Tuesday at 9:07 p.m. CT at Angel Stadium. The right-hander has gone 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts since being reinstated from the disabled list and has a 9.53 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break.
Angels: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (6-12, 5.16 ERA) will take the mound for the Angels on Tuesday as they continue their four-game series with the Rangers at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. The Halos have won three of Nolasco's last four starts in August.
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Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.
Ryan Posner is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Rangers on Monday.