ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - The Los Angeles Angels crossed their fingers and sent two rookie pitchers to the mound against the defending AL champions. The Texas Rangers battered them both while taking a commanding AL West lead.
Manager Mike Scioscia realizes his Angels could be in danger of abruptly losing a race that seemed wide open just a week ago.
Michael Young had three of the Rangers' 17 hits and drove in three runs, and Texas opened its biggest division lead of the season with a 7-3 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night.
Torii Hunter had two hits and drove in a run for the punchless Angels, who trailed Texas by just 1 1/2 games a week ago. Los Angeles has lost six of seven since, and the Rangers moved six games ahead with another dominant offensive effort and a strong start by Derek Holland.
``A week ago, we were looking right up at these guys,' Scioscia said. ``We were within striking distance, but we've had a rough six or seven games that carried over from that trip into this series. But it can turn in a heartbeat, and that's what we have to keep our focus on - how we play the game.'
One night after Angels starter Garrett Richards left in the first inning with a groin injury, fellow rookie Tyler Chatwood (6-9) couldn't get out of the third, yielding eight hits and five runs. Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver will start the next two games as Los Angeles attempts to get a draw out of this series.
``If we lose two more games, obviously you can do a lot of math and look at it and see that it's really uphill,' Scioscia said. ``If we're six games back or four games back, it's still uphill. You still need to catch a team, but I think it's too early for math. Right now we need to play good baseball, and then we'll worry about the numbers we need as we hopefully gain ground. But the last two nights, it's obvious we didn't really gives ourselves a chance to win.'
Holland (11-4) yielded nine hits and fell one out shy of his fifth complete game for the defending AL champions, who have taken control of the division race in the past week with a 4 1/2-game swing. Josh Hamilton homered in a three-hit performance before leaving with back spasms, and Mitch Moreland had a two-run single among his three hits in Texas' fifth straight victory - all on the road.
``We want to gain distance and gain a bigger lead against these guys, and they want the same thing,' Holland said. ``We're not going to sit and gloat on it, because they could easily come back.'
While Los Angeles has lost four straight for the first time since early June, Texas is a season-best 19 games over .500 (71-52) largely thanks to an offense that has scored at least seven runs in six of the past seven games. Young has six of Texas' 31 hits in the last two games, including a two-RBI single in the first inning Tuesday night.
``We know we can swing the bats,' Texas manager Ron Washington said. ``You never think you're going to come into Anaheim like that and put runs on them, but we've got a pretty good offensive team. When you swing the bats like that, everybody feeds off it.'
Texas is in a feeding frenzy midway through the first of three late-season series against the Angels. After jumping to a seven-run lead early in their 8-4 victory in the series opener, the Rangers went ahead 5-0 early Tuesday and took a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning.
Holland won his fifth straight decision, but couldn't quite finish it. Washington pulled the left-hander after back-to-back run-scoring hits by Hunter and Mark Trumbo with two outs in the ninth, allowing Neftali Feliz to finish.
After Hamilton put the Rangers up 3-0 with his 15th homer on Chatwood's first pitch of the third inning, Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli loaded the bases. Moreland's single chased Chatwood, who was replaced by Trevor Bell, one of two pitchers recalled by the Angels after the bullpen was forced to pitch eight-plus innings Monday.
Texas added runs on Yorvit Torrealba's RBI single in the fifth and Young's sacrifice fly in the sixth. Only Hunter's diving catch in the right-field corner prevented even more damage in the Rangers' sixth-inning rally.
Hamilton was replaced on defense in the eighth inning after grounding into a double play. He said he felt fine in the clubhouse.
NOTES: Ervin Santana will attempt to halt the Angels' slide when the streaking right-hander takes the mound Wednesday. The Rangers will counter with C.J. Wilson. ... Hunter extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a second-inning single. ... Bell, a sometime starter for the Angels, yielded six hits and two runs in 4 1-3 innings of relief. The Angels optioned him back to Triple-A Salt Lake after the game.
The Associated Press News Service
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