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Angels deliver near-knockout blow to punchless Rangers

Angels' 2-0 victory increases their AL West lead to 71/2 games over Texas, which has been shut out in four of its last five games. Scott Kazmir gets his first win for new team.

September 19, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

ARLINGTON, TEXAS — The Texas Rangers flashed some leather but no lumber Friday night, and unless they snap out of their offensive stupor, like, now, the Angels will be dousing each other in champagne a lot sooner than they expected.

Scott Kazmir threw six shutout innings for his first win as an Angel, and setup man Kevin Jepsen survived a harrowing eighth, as the Angels held on for a 2-0 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington on night.

The Angels increased their American League West lead over Texas to a season-high 7 1/2 games with 15 games left and reduced their magic number to clinch their fifth division title in six years to nine.

The Rangers, once known for their mashing ways, have turned to mush. They have been shut out in four of five games, all losses, and have scored one run in 46 innings. They became only the sixth team since 1954 to score one run in a span of five or more games.

"Say what?" Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said, when told of that statistic. "That's tough, man. I wouldn't wish that on no ballclub."

The Rangers appeared on the verge of breaking out when they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth with the help of a rare error by Hunter, who just a few days ago in Boston admonished his teammates for their sloppy play.

Julio Borbon led off with an infield single off Jepsen, and after Juan Rivera made a nice running catch of Hank Blalock's slicing fly ball to left, Ian Kinsler lined a single to right-center.

Hunter cut the ball off, spun and uncorked a throw to nowhere. The ball landed between the mound and third, enabling Kinsler to take second. Hunter was charged with his first error since Aug. 31, 2007, a span of 264 games.

"That was tough," said Hunter, an eight-time Gold Glove Award winner. "The ball slipped out of my hand. . . . That's baseball. I'll just have to start another streak."

Elvis Andrus grounded out to third, the runners holding, and after David Murphy was walked intentionally, Andruw Jones flied to right, ending the inning.

"One thing about Kevin is he's calm out there," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Jepsen. "He showed his mental presence tonight. He stayed in his game, made some pitches and got out of that jam."

Closer Brian Fuentes threw a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 43rd save to preserve the win for Kazmir, who allowed six hits, struck out five and walked none. Of Kazmir's 104 pitches, 77 were strikes.

"You want to make sure to attack the strike zone and don't let them in good counts where they can get comfortable," said Kazmir, who is 6-1 with a 2.05 earned-run average against Texas. "That's what you have to do against hitters who are struggling."

The Rangers kept the game close with two outstanding plays, right fielder Nelson Cruz's running, lunging catch of Bobby Abreu's drive to the wall with the bases loaded to end the second and Andrus' backhand diving catch of Rivera's liner in the fifth.

But they got only one runner to third against Kazmir, while the Angels found creative ways to score, converting a muffed third strike that should have ended an inning into a run for the third straight game.

Friday night, it was Vladimir Guerrero who struck out in the first on a Tommy Hunter breaking ball that bounced past catcher Ivan Rodriguez, allowing Guerrero to reach and Maicer Izturis to take second. Hunter's bloop single made it 1-0.

"It's kind of strange to see that happen three straight games," Scioscia said. "We're not going to give them back."

Guerrero's 15th homer of the season, a solo shot to left, gave the Angels a 2-0 lead in the third.






9This is the combination of Angels wins and Texas losses that will clinch the AL West title. H: home games left. R: road games left.

*--* AL WEST W L Pct GB H R Angels 88 59 599 -- 10 5 Texas 80 66 548 7.5 5 11 *--*

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