ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Angels sent Dan Haren to the mound, looking for a sweep of the Texas Rangers hoping to trim the margin between the top two teams in the AL West. Los Angeles fell short of that goal, yet was encouraged by the way it held its own against baseball's best-hitting team over the weekend.
Haren lasted only five innings on Sunday, taking the loss after two stellar outings, and Nelson Cruz hit a tape-measure two-run homer off Bobby Cassevah in the Rangers' 7-3 victory. It ended four-game skid by the two-time defending AL champs and sent the Angels to just their second loss in 12 games.
``Overall, we won the series,' Haren said. ``You have to look at the big picture, and we're playing much better baseball. They've been on top for a while with that start they had. We were winning games, but we needed to beat them.'
The clubs play 13 more times during the regular season, so Torii Hunter remains confident that the Angels will give Texas a race to the finish.
``We know them, they know us, and it's going to be a battle all year long,' the outfielder said. ``Two out of three is not bad against a good team like Texas because they're the champs, so you've got to be happy with it. Right now we're getting by. We're playing a lot better baseball than we did the first six weeks, but we're a lot better than what we've shown.'
Haren (3-6) threw 104 pitches, allowing two runs and seven hits. The three-time All-Star, who is winless in his last five starts against Texas, ended a career-best streak of 25 strikeouts without a walk when Mike Napoli drew a base on balls in the fourth. The franchise record for most strikeouts without a walk is 30, by Frank Tanana in May 1976.
``They fought me. They didn't go down easily, that's for sure,' Haren said. ``That's one of the best lineups, if not the best lineup in baseball. They did a great job of wearing me down.'
Michael Young had an RBI single off Haren in the fifth after flying out his first two times up, keeping his career average against him at .327 (18 for 55).
``Haren's a really good pitcher, so one thing you have to do with guys like that is lock in on the strike zone,' Young said. ``We tried to be as aggressive in the strike zone as we could be and not do him any favors outside the zone. And I think we did a fairly good job of that.'
John Hester hit his first home run with the Angels, a solo shot to left-center that trimmed Texas' lead to 3-2 in the sixth, and was the first given up by Matt Harrison (7-3) in his last four starts.
But Cruz followed a leadoff single in the seventh by Young with his eighth homer, a titanic drive that reached the championship flag poles in left-center after manager Ron Washington gave Cruz the green light on a 3-0 pitch from Cassevah.
``Butch came out before that pitch, so we knew he was swinging,' Cassevah said in reference to pitching coach Mike Butcher. ``I was trying to throw a strike. But the sinker didn't sink, it was right over the middle, and he got all of it. But a home run's a home run to me no matter how far they go. The hitter wants to see how far it goes. I don't. I just go on to the next guy.'
The ball was estimated to have traveled 484 feet, making it the longest home run in the majors this season, according to the Angels based on information from ESPN Home Run Tracker.
Harrison was charged with three runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings after handing a 5-2 lead to the bullpen. The left-hander, who started Game 7 of last year's World Series for the Rangers, departed after giving up a two-out single to Peter Bourjos and a walk to Hester.
The Angels, who had won 10 of their previous 11, got on the board in the fifth after Mark Trumbo drew a leadoff walk and came all the way around on a two-out double to left by Erick Aybar - Los Angeles' first hit off Harrison. Aybar was 1 for 14 against him prior to that at-bat.
NOTES: The Angels' game on Monday night against Seattle at the ``Big A' will be Mike Scioscia's 2,000th as a major league manager during the regular season - all with Los Angeles. The only coach who has been on Scioscia's staff the entire time is 1B coach Alfredo Griffin.
The Associated Press News Service
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