ARLINGTON, Texas — The Angels looked a little groggy Saturday morning, committing five errors, one shy of their franchise record for a game, in the first five innings of a 7-4 loss to Texas that kept the Rangers' playoff hopes alive.
But Manager Mike Scioscia wasn't buying the suggestion that an early start — the game was moved from 7 p.m. CDT to 11 a.m. because of the threat of heavy rains, which drenched the Ballpark in Arlington field in the bottom of the ninth inning — was a factor in the sloppy play.
"That's got absolutely nothing to do with it," Scioscia said. "These guys were ready to go. It's like a normal day game after night game. You can't sugarcoat the way we played defense. It was brutal. Just silly mistakes, and it cost us."
BOX SCORE: Texas 7, Angels 4
The Rangers scored their first three runs on errors in the first two innings by third baseman Andrew Romine, pitcher Garrett Richards and shortstop Erick Aybar. Right fielder Kole Calhoun bobbled David Murphy's fourth-inning single, and left fielder Collin Cowgill bobbled A.J. Pierzynski's fifth inning run-scoring single.
Aybar doubled and scored in each of his first three at-bats, Mike Trout had two sacrifice flies, and Howie Kendrick's run-scoring double pulled the Angels to within 5-4 in the fifth inning.
But Alex Rios doubled to lead off the bottom of the inning, and run-scoring singles by Pierzynski and Craig Gentry pushed the lead to 7-4. Relievers Joakim Soria, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan combined for 41/3 innings, Nathan striking out Kendrick through a downpour with two runners on base for his 43rd save.
Texas is tied with Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, one game behind Cleveland going into Sunday's regular-season finale.
A victory would assure the Rangers of extending their season with a play-in game against the Rays in Texas on Monday or, if Tampa Bay loses to Toronto, a wild-card game in Cleveland on Wednesday.
A three-team tie would result in the Indians playing host to the Rays on Monday, with the winner earning a wild-card berth and the loser playing at Texas on Tuesday for the second wild-card spot.
"This year has been disappointing for us," said Angels left-hander Jason Vargas, who will start against the Rangers on Sunday. "This is an opportunity for us to make it disappointing for someone else."
Get a grip
Ted Barrett, crew chief of the umpires working the series, said every baseball used Friday night was rubbed with mud, contradicting claims by Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson that "three out of four balls were basically brand new."
Wilson said his inability to grip slick baseballs contributed to his four walks, three wild pitches and two hit batters in a 5-3 loss.
"They were all definitely rubbed with mud," Barrett said Saturday. "Maybe he felt there should have been more. Most complaints we get is they're too dark. Once in a while, especially in drier climates, a pitcher will complain they're too slick."
Scioscia said it appeared some balls were "taken right out of the box, they still had packing dust on them." But Barrett said the balls, used by both teams, were rubbed by the umpires' attendant.
"They rub thousands of balls, each one individually, every year," Barrett said. "Sometimes maybe they'll use a little too much mud, sometimes not enough, but they try their best to be consistent."