In what could be a pitchers' duel, Greinke and Darvish square off in Thursday night's finale in Anaheim.
The Angels (81-68) picked up a big win in Tuesday's opener by crushing the Rangers 11-3 without Albert Pujols (paternity leave), but lost 6-2 the next night. Los Angeles remained 3 1/2 games back of Oakland for the AL's second wild-card spot with 13 to play."You can make it whatever you want to," said Mark Trumbo , who is 4 for 40 in his last 11 games. "I mean, if you treat it like a dire situation, I doubt that's going to do too much good for us."
Texas (88-60), which won Wednesday without sluggers Josh Hamilton (sinus condition) and Adrian Beltre (abdominal discomfort), is in a much better position to make the playoffs, leading the A's by four with 14 games remaining.
"What we do on the field trumps scoreboard-watching, but you can be aware of what's going on," said Michael Young , who is batting .464 during an eight-game hitting streak.
The Rangers and Angels have split their last 10 meetings, with the winning team plating at least six runs.
Thursday's finale, however, could end that trend.
Since Aug. 24, Darvish (15-9, 4.02 ERA) has the AL's second-lowest ERA at 1.55, while Greinke's 1.70 ERA is third best.
In Darvish's four starts in this stretch, he is 3-0 with 33 strikeouts and seven walks over 29 innings. The right-hander was 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA and 19 base on balls over 31 2-3 innings over his previous five starts, which included an outing against the Angels on Aug. 1, when he gave up seven runs and six walks in five innings.
"Overall, I have been able to concentrate and compete against the hitters," Darvish told the Rangers' official website after permitting one run and two hits in seven innings in Friday's 9-3 win over Seattle.
Greinke (5-2, 3.78 ERA) was in position to win his fifth straight start Saturday in Kansas City until he was removed and things derailed. He had limited the Royals to no runs and five singles before being replaced by Ernesto Frieri after Alex Gordon singled with one out in the ninth. Frieri promptly served up two homers in just four pitches and the Angels lost 3-2.
He has a 1.32 ERA in his last six starts against the Rangers, last facing them in 2010. Texas hopes he forgot how he used to pitch to the Rangers during the long time between starts.
Ian Kinsler is batting .167 with a homer and seven strikeouts in 18 career at-bats against Greinke, while Nelson Cruz is 1 for 9 with four strikeouts and Mike Napoli is batting .182 with five strikeouts in 11 at-bats.
Hamilton, who leads the AL with 42 homers, hasn't played since the fourth inning Tuesday because of a recurring sinus condition. It might be wise to keep him out of the finale, too, considering he's 0 for 16 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Greinke.
|September 18, 2012||Tanner Scheppers||Day-to-Day||Left game - Bruised right knee|
|September 13, 2012||Mike Olt||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, right foot|
|September 13, 2012||Josh Hamilton||Day-to-Day||Sore left knee|
|September 12, 2012||Adrian Beltre||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left shoulder|
|September 09, 2012||Roy Oswalt||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right elbow|
|September 02, 2012||Ian Kinsler||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|Los Angeles Angels|
|August 30, 2012||Howie Kendrick||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right knee|
|August 22, 2012||Albert Pujols||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf tightness|
|August 19, 2012||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 19, 2012||Peter Bourjos||15-Day DL||Sore right wrist|
|August 13, 2012||C.J. Wilson||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised left hand|
|July 30, 2012||Mark Trumbo||Day-to-Day||Back spasms|
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Although Adrian Beltre was nearly doubled over in abdominal pain before the game, he still demanded a spot in Texas manager Ron Washington 's lineup.
After Beltre's ninth-inning homer, the Los Angeles Angels were the ones with a sick feeling in their stomachs.
Beltre hit a tiebreaking two-run shot off closer Ernesto Frieri , and the Rangers dealt yet another blow to Los Angeles' fading playoff hopes with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.
Texas (89-60) improved the AL's best record and stayed four games ahead of Oakland (85-64) in the AL West by taking two of three from the Angels (81-69), who dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Athletics and Baltimore in the AL wild-card standings.
After a scintillating eight-inning duel between Yu Darvish and Zack Greinke , Beltre connected for his 34th homer against Frieri (3-2), who wasted a fine start by Greinke for the second time in six days.
"I was glad to be in there, and I'm just glad (Washington) allowed me to be in there," Beltre said. "This is the time of year you want to play. It's not the place or time to relax right now, especially against an opponent in our division."
Beltre missed Wednesday's game and nearly sat out Thursday with abdominal troubles before talking his way into the lineup during batting practice. He went 0 for 3 against Greinke, but smashed a hanging slider from Frieri after Michael Young 's leadoff single.
"That was the pitch that I wanted to throw," Frieri said. "He hit it. So what? Every pitch that I made is because I wanted to throw it. He's a good hitter, and that happens. Maybe I didn't put that pitch where I wanted to put it, but I wanted to throw that pitch."
Darvish (16-9) held the Angels to four hits and struck out nine while matching Greinke, who gave up five hits and struck out eight. Neither team managed an extra-base hit in the first eight innings.
Darvish was largely unhittable for the fifth consecutive start, repeatedly mixing 95-mph fastballs and 65-mph breaking balls while retiring 14 of the Angels' first 16 hitters. The rookie is actually getting better as he closes in on his first major league-playoff experience, leaving Young marveling at the Japanese right-hander's improvements.
"I'm learning about myself, especially before this (good) stretch, when I wasn't consistent and wasn't performing," Darvish said through a translator. "These outings are something the team expects. They acquired me to perform like this."
Joe Nathan gave up a two-out double to Albert Pujols in the ninth, but got Kendrys Morales on a fly to finish his 34th save.
The Rangers won their second straight game without slugger Josh Hamilton , who will return to Texas for further examination of a sinus condition. Hamilton left Tuesday's game in the fourth inning with the problem, saying his entire family has been under the weather for several days.
Nelson Cruz had two hits and scored the first run in the fifth inning for the Rangers, but Los Angeles tied it in the sixth on Torii Hunter 's grounder.
Greinke didn't lose his rhythm after Frieri gave away his last outing in spectacular fashion. The normally reliable closer gave up two homers in four pitches while blowing a two-run lead in the ninth after he took over for Greinke, who had thrown 109 pitches - the same number he had through eight innings Thursday.
"I just pitch as long as I can, and (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia makes the decisions from there," Greinke said. "Frieri has been pitching great all year, and his job is the ninth inning. ... The good thing is that we have two teams we could catch. The toughest thing for us is that we're playing tough teams right now. I know it won't be easy, but it's definitely possible."
After a slow start in Orange County, Greinke has been everything the Angels anticipated when they acquired him in July from Milwaukee, going 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last six starts while holding every opponent to two runs or fewer.
He didn't walk a Texas batter, never even getting into a three-ball count until the seventh inning.
Cruz and David Murphy led off the fifth with singles for Texas. Geovany Soto hit a medium-length fly to left, but Cruz beat Hunter's strong throw with a wide slide touching the plate with his hand.
After slumping All-Star Mark Trumbo delivered a leadoff single in the sixth, pinch-runner Peter Bourjos reached third on Chris Iannetta 's single. Mike Trout struck out, but Hunter's broken-bat grounder dawdled on the grass just long enough to allow Bourjos to score the tying run.
NOTES: Hamilton tried to participate in a pregame workout, but couldn't do much. He was in the Rangers' dugout during the game. ... Scioscia says struggling LHP C.J. Wilson is keeping his spot in the rotation despite failing to make it out of the third inning Wednesday night. ... Los Angeles opens a weekend series with the Chicago White Sox on Friday night, with Ervin Santana facing Jake Peavy . Texas opens a three-game series in Seattle.