DETROIT — The Angels and Texas Rangers will resume a spirited and often heated rivalry Friday night when they begin a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
The Angels went 48-28 against Texas from 2005-2008, winning three division titles during the stretch, but the Rangers are 36-27 against the Angels since 2009, winning the last two division titles and American League pennants.
There have been tense games, angry words and brush-back pitches between the teams, and both spent hundreds of millions of dollars last winter loading up their rosters for World Series runs, much like a pair of AL East powers have for years.
"It's not quite the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, but it's getting there," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's not heated like we hate each other, but it's a lot more competitive. You can't replace the history of Red Sox-Yankees, but we're boiling. We're the new generation. We're like YouTube or Instagram.
"Whenever we play the Rangers, it's a lot of fun. The fans and media really get into it. There's a little extra oomph from both sides. They're the champs, and we're trying to take that crown away."
With a six-game deficit and 69 games remaining, head-to-head competition offers the best chance for the Angels to gain ground on first-place Texas. As good as the Angels have been for 2 1/2 months — their 44-29 record since April 28 is the second-best in baseball — they gained only three games in that span.
"It's frustrating," Hunter said. "We're doing great things and we're still six games back. That shows you how well the Rangers are playing."
The Angels are in position to win a wild-card berth, but that would leave them in a one-game showdown to reach the playoffs.
"You want to win the division," Hunter said. "We're not talking about the wild card. If we're five games back on the last day of the season, then yeah, the wild card is very important. Other than that, I want that banner."
One way to get outfielders Peter Bourjos and Vernon Wells, when he returns from a thumb injury, into the lineup more often would be to move first baseman Albert Pujols to third and outfielder Mark Trumbo to first, an alignment the Angels used for several interleague games in National League ballparks.
It could happen … but not often.
"Albert is willing to play third on occasion, but as a permanent move, I don't think it's anything we're going to explore," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have some guys playing really well defensively at third, and Albert is very comfortable at first. He brings an incredible presence, and I don't think you want to lose that."
Pujols, who has been nursing a left-foot injury, started at designated hitter Thursday against the Tigers and could remain there for a game or two against Texas. … Mike Trout has scored in 11 consecutive games, two shy of Jim Edmonds' club record of 13, set in 1995. … Wells is expected to receive final medical clearance from doctors Friday morning to begin a rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Salt Lake on Friday night. He will probably be joined there Saturday by catcher Chris Iannetta.