The surging Texas Rangers are trying to gain a share of one - or both - of the AL's wild-card spots.
They don't have to wait long to continue their pursuit.
With rain in the forecast in Arlington, the Rangers will take the field Saturday morning as they try to extend their longest home winning streak over the Los Angeles Angels in 35 years.
Texas (89-71) has won five in a row to match its total from the previous 20 games to tighten the playoff race. The Rangers trail wild-card co-leaders Cleveland and Tampa Bay by one game with two to play. The Indians are in Minnesota, while the Rays are visiting Toronto.
"These last two games are going to be exciting. We definitely bettered our chances," closer Joe Nathan said.
Alex Rios has been a reason for that, going 7 for 19 with seven RBIs, five runs and three stolen bases over the last five games. The right fielder had a go-ahead, run-scoring single in the seventh inning of Friday's 5-3 win over the Angels (78-82).
Both teams will have a quick turnaround with Saturday's game starting at 11:05 a.m. CDT - the earliest start in the 20-season history of Rangers Ballpark.
The game was originally scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m., but a change was made with the forecast calling for moderate showers and thunderstorms in the area by early Saturday afternoon and increasing in intensity throughout the day."Wake-up call early," Texas manager Ron Washington said before Friday's game. "I know they're expecting rain, so we've got to do what we have to do to make sure we get the game in. I certainly don't want to play a doubleheader on Sunday."
The Rangers are 13-4 against Los Angeles this year, and have won seven of eight home meetings, including six in a row for their longest winning streak in the all-time series since reeling off nine straight as host bridging 1977 and '78.
Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound, but he's failed to last beyond the sixth inning in each of his last three starts against the Angels, going 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA. He gave up eight runs in 5 2-3 innings of an 8-3 road loss to the Angels on Sept. 7.
The left-hander, however, is coming off his second shutout of the season. He tossed a six-hitter while striking out nine in Monday's 12-0 win over Houston - his first victory in nine outings.
Trout is 9 for 25 (.360) with two homers and two doubles off Holland, while Trumbo has homered four times on seven hits in 23 at-bats over the past two years.
Both of them enter this meeting scuffling at the plate. Trout, third in the AL with a .323 average, is 3 for 21 with 10 strikeouts in six games, while Trumbo is 3 for 32 in his last nine.
The Angels, assured of their second losing season in 10 years, are expected to send Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09) to the mound in the hopes that he can rebound from one of his worst performances of the season.
The right-hander was pounded for a season high-tying seven runs and eight hits - two homers - in 4 2-3 innings of Monday's 10-5 loss to Oakland. That was a tremendous departure from going 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA over his previous four starts.
"It's part of a learning curve," manager Mike Scioscia told the team's official website. "It's part of a guy getting his first opportunity."
Richards was impressive against the Rangers on Sept. 7, yielding two runs in seven innings of an 8-3 victory.
|Los Angeles Angels|
|September 26, 2013||J.B. Shuck||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 19, 2013||Jered Weaver||Day-to-Day||Elbow|
|September 16, 2013||Peter Bourjos||60-Day DL||Right wrist surgery|
|September 08, 2013||Peter Bourjos||Day-to-Day||Right wrist|
|September 08, 2013||Luis Jimenez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right thumb contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Chris Nelson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|September 09, 2013||Jim Adduci||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right biceps|
|September 09, 2013||Yu Darvish||Day-to-Day||Left game - right leg cramping|
|August 25, 2013||Leonys Martin||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|August 20, 2013||Matt West||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|August 14, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Joe Nathan feels like the Texas Rangers have been playing elimination games for a week.
Now they are down to the regular season's scheduled finale, still with a chance to get into the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
A rain-drenched Nathan struck out Howie Kendrick with two runners on and the infield flooding to close out the Rangers' sixth straight victory, and second in less than 24 hours. They beat the sloppy Los Angeles Angels 7-4 on Saturday.
"It doesn't change what we need to do, we need to come in and win a game tomorrow," Nathan said. "We don't want to have to rely on somebody to help us all the time."
They did get some help Saturday when Tampa Bay lost at Toronto, dropping the Rays (90-71) into a tie with the Rangers for the AL's second wild-card spot. Cleveland (91-70) won its ninth consecutive game, winning at Minnesota to hold the top wild card by a game and ensure the Indians will play past Sunday.
The Rangers trailed only three batters in, but the Angels made five errors in a game for the first time since Sept. 16, 2006, also at Texas. Shortstop Erick Aybar , right fielder Kole Calhoun , left fielder Collin Cowgill , pitcher Garrett Richards and third baseman Andrew Romine had the miscues.
Texas got even with a gift run in the bottom of the first on a grounder through the legs of third baseman Romine. The Angels then made two more errors, and Richards (7-8) threw a wild pitch in the second when the Rangers went ahead for good with four runs - three of them unearned.
"You can't sugar-coat the way we played defense. It was just brutal. They were silly mistakes, and it cost us. That's the story of this afternoon," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Texas made four errors in one inning and overcame it."
The Rangers opened the series with that four-error inning Thursday but won on rookie Jurickson Profar 's game-ending homer. Nathan was the winner after pitching the ninth of that game and saved the last two.
With 43 saves in 46 chances, Nathan said he is ready to go again if needed.
If the Rangers win the final game Sunday, they will be guaranteed at least a wild-card tiebreaker.
The 11:07 a.m. start was the earliest home game in the 42 seasons the Rangers have played in Texas - the game was moved up eight hours because of the threat of bad weather.
The game was played mostly under overcast skies, and there were quick showers while the Rangers batted in the first and fifth innings without any delays. It was a downpour in the ninth after Nathan got two quick outs before Josh Hamilton had a pinch double and Mike Trout walked.
"I was saying we've got to stop this game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "The guys standing on the infield, if a ball is hit to them, I can't see them throwing it across the infield. But we didn't have to worry about that because Joe got him out.'
Nathan described it as "basically a lake out there."
Joakim Soria (1-0) got his first major league victory since July 23, 2011, striking out two in 1 1-3 scoreless innings in relief of Derek Holland . Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers each worked a scoreless inning before Nathan took over.
A two-time All-Star, Soria was recovering from elbow ligament replacement surgery when he signed a two-year deal with the Rangers last offseason. The right-hander's season debut July 7 was his first major league appearance in nearly two years.
Aybar led off the game with the first of his three doubles, then scored the first of his three runs. He came home on sacrifice flies by Trout in the first and third innings.
The Rangers got even at 1 when Alex Rios hit the grounder under Romine that sent home Ian Kinsler , who had a leadoff single.
Craig Gentry , 15 for 33 the last nine games, had a leadoff double in the second before David Murphy walked and Leonys Martin had the first of his two sacrifice bunts.
Kinsler hit a liner off the upper body of Richards, who grabbed the ball and looked the runner back to third before making an errant throw to first base that allowed a run. Rios had a sac fly and Elvis Andrus , who had singled, scored on a wild pitch that ricocheted only a few feet away from the plate.
The Angels closed to 5-4 in the fifth on doubles by Aybar and Kendrick that chased Holland.
Rios, acquired from the Chicago White Sox after Texas slugger Nelson Cruz was suspended, had a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth and scored on a single by A.J. Pierzynski, who came home on a safety squeeze bunt that the speedy Gentry turned into an infield hit.
"We did the little things, we moved guys over, we were able to pick each other up and we played as a team," said Rios, who has played 1,453 career games over 10 seasons without getting into the playoffs. "When you do that, you have a pretty good chance to do well. That's what we've been doing."
NOTES: All nine Texas starters had hits. ... Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.82 ERA), the major league leader with 269 strikeouts, starts the finale for Texas. ... The previous earliest home start for the Rangers was two weeks ago, a 12:06 p.m. game vs. Oakland. ... Both teams wore red jerseys. ... Hamilton's 13-game hitting streak is his longest this season.