ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Texas Rangers are back atop the AL West after a ferocious surge that has given them confidence they can win a third division title in five seasons without the suspended Nelson Cruz.
Adrian Beltre had a homer and three RBIs and scored three runs, Alexi Ogando won for the first time in his last five starts, and the Rangers completed a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels with a 10-3 victory Wednesday night that lifted them into a virtual tie with Oakland for the AL West lead.
This is the first time Texas has had at least a share of first place since July 1, when the Rangers led the Athletics by a half-game.
“That's the place we were supposed to be,” Beltre said. “I know Oakland's been playing well this season, but we assumed we would be there. We haven't won anything yet, but at least we're going in the right direction. We've been more consistent and getting the big hits in clutch situations.”
The Rangers, who have won nine of 10, were a season-worst six games off the pace on July 28 after getting shut out for the second straight time at Cleveland. Manager Ron Washington held a closed-door postgame meeting that day with his players, and they began their dramatic turnaround with a three-game sweep at home against the Angels — with each game being decided by a game-ending homer.
“The change is not because of my meeting. The change is because of the players,” Washington said. “I just put it out there for them and they did the rest. That's what I'm special at. The opportunity presented itself, and their attention needed to be gotten. I must have said something that hit home for them. But it's the players.”
The Rangers, who had six stolen bases in their 8-3 win on Tuesday night, picked up right where they left off with a season-high seven steals — tying the Angels’ record for most allowed. Four of them came in the first inning against Tommy Hanson and batterymate Hank Conger — including a double-steal by Leonys Martin and Elvis Andrus.
“They were aggressive on the base paths, and they're making our job easier,” Beltre said. “When you've got guys like that who get on with a base hit or a walk then steal second and steal third, it makes it that much easier to give our pitching staff some more run support.”
Martin and Andrus each stole three bases, with Andrus reaching the 30 mark for the fourth time in five big league seasons. Andrus has stolen 14 consecutive bases since June 25, when the Yankees’ Chris Stewart threw him out at second with David Robertson on the mound.
“Elvis couldn't have come back to us at a better time and get his game back together,” Washington said. “Martin is beginning to show the abilities that we as an organization thought he had. I knew he could run, but I didn't know he could run like that.”
The Rangers’ franchise record for stolen bases is nine, set on April 20, 2010 at Boston.
“We have to get better at that,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It's one thing giving up the stolen base. You're not going to change your whole game plan to shut down the running game, but you have to try to contain it. They have some guys there that can run, but they shouldn't be running with the ease they are against us.”
Ogando (5-3) allowed two runs four hits over five innings and struck out four in his 14th start and 11th on the road, shrugging off a two-run homer Mike Trout hit in the first inning. The victory was the right-hander's first since May 15 at Oakland.
Hanson (4-3) was charged with five runs, seven hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings following four straight no-decisions.
Josh Hamilton, who signed a five-year, five year, $125 million contract with the Angels as a free agent after six seasons with the Rangers, was 0 for 12 in the series with five strikeouts. He is batting just .217 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs.
When asked if Hamilton would be struggling at the plate this much had he re-signed with the Rangers, Washington said: "That's a loaded question. I would like to say yes, but I don't know that. I do know they've got a quality player here — five tools, baby. Five tools. He can take a ballgame over and do a lot of things. Maybe he's not doing them right now, but he hasn't lost that skill. I don't care if he keeps swinging and missing, he's still dangerous.
“I think that he is still adjusting to his new environment, and it's a big adjustment,” Washington added. “I think everybody's going to be very happy with him as (things evolve.) I think next season, they'll see what Josh is all about.”
Mitch Moreland drove in the only run of the Rangers’ hitless first inning with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly after an intentional walk to Beltre. But the Angels responded with two runs in the bottom of the first, as Kole Calhoun drew a leadoff walk and Trout followed with a drive to left-center for his 20th home run.
It was the second straight year that Trout homered on his birthday. Last year at Oakland he became the fifth player in major league history to hit one on the day he turned 21, joining Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Heyward. The Angels’ All-Star center fielder also robbed Craig Gentry of a home run in the fourth.
The Rangers hustled themselves into three runs in the third to grab a 4-2 lead. Martin led off with a double, and Andrus just beat out a bunt single that Hanson fielded in front of the mound. Ian Kinsler followed with an RBI single, and Andrus scored when Beltre barely beat the relay to first from second baseman Grant Green on a potential double-play grounder.
Hanson threw two wild pitches that inning, one of them before giving up Moreland's RBI single, then held his breath while Hamilton caught Geovany Soto's drive against the bullpen fence in left field.
Beltre made it 7-2 in the sixth with his 25th homer, a two-run shot off demoted starter Joe Blanton, who has given up 25 this season.
NOTES: The Rangers have beaten the Angels a franchise-record seven straight times. ... Texas is 34-1 when scoring more than five runs. ... Angels C Chris Iannetta got the night off. He has no RBIs in his last 28 at-bats against the Rangers since his solo homer against Ryan Dempster at Texas on Sept. 28, 2012.