Reporting from Arlington, Texas — The Texas Rangers are feeling a lot better about their pennant chances after Saturday night's 6-2 victory over the Angels at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Josh Hamilton, who returned to the lineup Friday night for the first time since suffering small fractures in two ribs Sept. 4, hit a two-run home run to right-center field against starter Ervin Santana to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning.
Hamilton, starting at designated hitter after playing six innings in center field Friday, added a sacrifice fly to deep center field during a three-run seventh inning and a sharp single to right field in the eighth.
Although he sat out a month, Hamilton leads the major leagues in batting (.360) and slugging percentage (.636), has 32 home runs, tying a career high, and 100 runs batted in.
"He looks good — he's getting his swing and his timing back," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. "I think he'll be fine for the playoffs. All he needs is three games under his belt.
"That guy is a different breed. He's cut from a different cloth. He's a beast. When I have another kid, I'm going to name him Torii Josh Hamilton Hunter."
The Angels scored twice against starter C.J. Wilson (15-8) in the first inning but failed to add any more runs after loading the bases with no outs. They were blanked the rest of the way and suffered their 82nd loss, assuring them of their first losing season since 2003.
Rise of Kohn
Jordan Walden has been so dominant, with his 99-mph fastball and 2.51 earned-run average in 15 games, that the 22-year-old right-hander is being mentioned as closing candidate … for 2011.
Michael Kohn's rise has been less meteoric but almost as impressive. The 24-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 24 games, and Manager Mike Scioscia believes the converted shortstop, who has been pitching for 2 1/2 years, has more upside.
"Last year, his velocity was probably two clicks higher," Scioscia said. "He's still developing, so there will be some combination of growth meshed with velocity and command. But he hasn't been as crisp as our minor league development guys thought he would be."
Kohn's fastball is in the 91-92-mph range. He hit 93-94 mph at Class-A last season.
He showed mental toughness in the Angels' 5-4 win on Friday, entering with two on and no outs in the 11th inning and recording three consecutive outs, two by strikeout, for his first big league save.
"I haven't done anything yet to make a mark, but I'm striving for that," Kohn said.
Hideki Matsui's year-end statistics look OK — he's hitting .271 with a .359 on-base percentage, 20 homers and 82 RBIs.
But the 35-year-old designated hitter knows those numbers are deceiving. After a productive April, Matsui hit .244 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in May, June and July.
A strong finish — Matsui is batting .363 with six homers and 25 RBIs since Aug. 14 — gave him a respectable final line, but most of that production came with the Angels out of contention.
Matsui, a longshot to return to Anaheim next season, did not hit enough when the Angels really needed him, after slugger Kendry Morales suffered a season-ending broken leg May 29.
"Honestly, it was a disappointing season for me personally," Matsui said through a translator.
Daren Haren will start Sunday's season finale against the Rangers. Scioscia had considered scratching the right-hander because he has thrown 229 innings this season.