ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Crazy plays just seem to find Jeff Francoeur ever since he joined the Texas Rangers. He can't complain as long as he keeps his new club cruising down its path to the playoffs.
Francoeur doubled to lead off the 12th inning and eventually scored on Jeff Mathis' passed ball, and the Rangers trimmed their magic number for clinching the AL West to four with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
The Rangers snapped a three-game skid with two unearned runs, finally rallying to win after eight scoreless innings - including 16 consecutive outs heading into the 12th.
After Francoeur alertly capitalized on Mathis' mistake on an easily catchable pitch, Texas avoided a series sweep and extended its division lead over Oakland to eight games heading into a four-game series at the Coliseum.
``It's a strange way to win, because you're expecting a curveball to get away, not a fastball,' said Francoeur, who won a game against the Yankees 11 days earlier when closer Mariano Rivera hit him with a pitch with the bases loaded. ``I didn't hesitate, though. It was a good opportunity.'
Neftali Feliz tied the rookie record set by Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2000 with his 37th save for Texas, which can clinch its first AL West title since 1999 with two wins over the Athletics. The magic number already dropped earlier Wednesday with Oakland's 4-3 loss to the White Sox.
``You can kind of taste it now,' Francoeur said. ``It would be nice to get the first two and wrap it up. We know if we can get two wins out of four, we can spend the last week getting ourselves prepared and ready for the playoffs.'
Long after starters C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren finished their duel through seven tight innings, Francoeur's hit led off the 12th against Matt Palmer (1-2). Chris Davis drew a walk and Bengie Molina's bunt advanced both runners, but pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland struck out.
Mathis then flubbed a chest-high pitch to Julio Borbon, allowing Francoeur to score with a slide.
``I just missed it, to be honest,' Mathis said. ``Wasn't no cross-up, nothing. It was a little cutter, and I just misjudged where it was. To come back like that and tie the game up with the homer, scrapping and clawing like that, to miss a ball like that is tough.'
Mike Napoli tied it with a seventh-inning homer for the Angels, who lost for just the fourth time in 13 games. Los Angeles' six-game home winning streak also ended with six games left in its final homestand of the season.
Matt Harrison (3-1) pitched the 11th for Texas before Feliz ended the 3-hour, 36-minute game by retiring pinch-hitters Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui. The Rangers' bullpen allowed five hits over six scoreless innings.
``We caught a break, but I can't say enough about our bullpen keeping us in position for it,' Texas manager Ron Washington said. ``C.J. kept us in the ballgame, and this is the type of game that breaks you out of slumps.'
Wilson didn't allow an Angels runner to reach second base until Napoli led off the seventh with his 26th homer. The left-hander from Orange County limited the Angels to three hits and three walks in six innings, but remained winless in four September starts.
Napoli's homer was just the ninth allowed by Wilson in 194 innings - the fifth-lowest ratio in the majors and second-lowest in the AL to Minnesota's Francisco Liriano.
Haren also got a no-decision despite holding the Rangers to three hits and one unearned run over seven innings, dropping his ERA over his past six starts to 1.32. The three-time All-Star has received more than three runs of support just three times in his 12 starts since arriving in a trade with Arizona.
Texas scored without a hit in the third inning when Borbon drew a one-out walk, advanced two bases on third baseman Kevin Frandsen's throwing error and scored on Michael Young's sacrifice fly.
Reggie Willits and Howie Kendrick hit consecutive singles off Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando in the eighth, but Torii Hunter grounded into an inning-ending double play.
NOTES: Willits' single ended an 0-for-17 skid. ... Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton did light exercise Wednesday after getting two injections near his two broken ribs a day earlier. The AL leader in batting average (.361) hopes to return for the final three games of the regular season. He hasn't played since Sept. 4. ... 1B Moreland is in a 4-for-24 slump, and Washington suggested Davis could have a chance to regain his job as the Rangers' starting first baseman before the playoffs. ... The Angels surpassed 3 million fans for the eighth consecutive season, extending the franchise record. The Yankees are the only other AL team to draw at least 3 million fans every year since 2003.
The Associated Press News Service
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