Beltre leads Rangers back into postseason
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers clinched a spot in the postseason with a 5-3 victory over the Angels in the first of a four-game season-ending series on Thursday night at Globe Life Park.
The loss eliminates the Angels from the American League West race, and they are one game back of the Astros in the race for the second Wild Card spot. The Rangers, three games up on the Astros with three to play, need just one more victory or an Astros loss to wrap up their sixth division title in club history.
"It means a lot," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "We worked hard to get to the point where we are. Yes we clinched the Wild Card but our eyes are on the division title. We're looking forward to tomorrow and getting it done."
Beltre provided the big blow in the fifth with a three-run double off Angels starter Andrew Heaney to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead. Derek Holland earned his first victory since Sept. 5 by holding the Angels to three runs in 6 1/3 innings.
The Angels have followed a seven-game winning streak with back-to-back losses and can only hope for the last available AL Wild Card spot.
At the very least, they need the Astros to lose one game in Arizona this weekend.
"We knew coming in we needed to win every game," Heaney said. "That was our mindset coming in. It's obviously frustrating for me to feel I didn't give the team a chance to win, to let those guys beat us the way we did. But we have three more games to go. All we can control is winning those games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Beltre caps big rally: Trailing, 1-0, in the fifth inning, the Rangers put together a string of tough at-bats against Heaney to score four runs. Elvis Andrus led off with a single on a full-count pitch, Robinson Chirinos drew a one-out walk and Delino DeShields tied the game with a double. Shin-Soo Choo then drew a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count. That brought up Beltre, and he doubled into the left-field corner to give the Rangers a 4-1 lead.
"Early on, our at-bats were a little anxious," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We settled down in the middle innings, and it gave us enough runs to get it done. It was the veteran guys showing up in the middle of the lineup that enabled us to put the runs up."
Borderline: Ahead in the count, 1-2, to Choo, with runners on second and third and one out in the fifth, Heaney barely missed with three consecutive pitches, setting up the walk that led to Beltre's bases-clearing double. All three pitches -- two low and away, another one middle-in -- could've been called strikes, but the rookie left-hander didn't get the benefit of the doubt from home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott. Heaney, who issued a career-high five walks, was taken out after Beltre's double. And while removing him, Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave Wolcott an earful.
Scioscia and Heaney were mainly bothered by the 2-2 slider they felt caught the inside part of the plate.
"Man, I mean, I'm not one to complain about umpires, but it sure looked like a strike to me," Heaney said. "When you're in the heat of the moment, you think every pitch that you make is the one you want to make, so I'll have to go take a look at it, for sure, but when I threw it, I felt like it was a strike." More >
Deep trouble: The Angels cut their deficit to one with a two-out bloop single by Erick Aybar in the seventh, but their bullpen gave the Rangers an important insurance run in the bottom half. Lefty Cesar Ramos, who has spent most of the year in low-leverage situations, gave up back-to-back singles to start the inning. Scioscia then went to right-hander Fernando Salas, who gave up two straight deep flyouts to center field. The last one, from Josh Hamilton, scored a run.
Hamilton's highlight catch: Hamilton's surgically repaired left knee is supposed to be a concern on defense, but it didn't prevent him from making a tremendous catch in the second inning. The Angels had runners at the corners with one out when Shane Victorino hit a Holland offering high and deep to left field. Hamilton raced back and made an over-the-shoulder catch as he crashed into the wall. Albert Pujols, running from third, tagged up and scored on a close play, as Hamilton recovered quickly and got the ball to shortstop Andrus for the relay home.
"The surprising part was I didn't think he hit it that well," Hamilton said. "I was more excited about getting up and throwing it in and having a close play at home."
Added former teammate Mike Trout: "Big catch, big play in the game. [David Freese] was on first. If he missed that and it hits off the wall, maybe he has a chance to score. But it is what it is." More >
"Who cares. My finger is fine. It's a little sore, but it's not an issue. I told you I would be able to pitch with it." -- Holland, on the bruised middle finger of his left hand
"The goal is still there, to get to the playoffs. It might be a harder route right now, and we're going to need some help, but the only thing we can control is our game." -- Scioscia, on his team's chances
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pujols' solo home run in the sixth, on a ball that barely made it over the left-field fence, gave him 1,157 extra-base hits in his career, tying him with Carl Yastrzemski for 11th on the all-time list. Pujols has 559 home runs in his career -- 14th all time -- and 39 this year, his highest total since 2010. Next on the list is Reggie Jackson, with 563.
Angels: Jered Weaver gets the ball when this series resumes at 5:05 p.m. PT on Friday at Globe Life Park. The 32-year-old right-hander lasted only five innings and 71 pitches against the Mariners on Sunday because his shoulder stiffened up, but Scioscia said Weaver is "full go" for Friday. Weaver has a 4.70 ERA in 19 career starts in Arlington.
Rangers: Left-hander Martin Perez pitches against the Angels at 7:05 p.m. CT on Friday. Perez is 3-4 with a 3.62 ERA in his last 10 starts after allowing two unearned runs over six innings in a 4-2 loss to the Astros on Sunday. He is 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA in four career games against the Angels.
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