ARLINGTON -- Beaten badly by Boston for three straight nights, the Texas Rangers looked as though they were about to completely lose their grip on first place in the American League West.
Then Friday happened.
The Rangers got solid starting pitching, played very well defensively, and broke out of a two-game funk at the plate -- facets that escaped them during their skid against the Red Sox.
The timing couldn't have been better for the Rangers' revival.
Nelson Cruz homered twice and drove in six runs, David Murphy launched a grand slam, and Derek Holland allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings as the Rangers opened a key three-game series with an 11-7 victory over second-place Los Angeles.
"Tonight we were able to get some pitching, we were able to put some runs on the board, and we were able to do it against a pretty good pitcher," manager Ron Washington said. "You never know how baseball is going to go on any given night, and tonight was our night."
The win pushed the Rangers' advantage in the West to three games over the Angels, who entered with a six-game winning streak. The Rangers have won four of the past five games in the season series and are 27-13 against the West.
Cruz led the charge, going 4 for 5 and finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
Cruz was dropped in the order as Washington hoped to get his right fielder going again at the plate. It was a good move, even though Cruz didn't agree with it.
He got the Rangers going in the second with a two-run single off Dan Haren (13-7) and started the fourth with a 452-foot solo shot to straightaway center field.
"I'll relax when the season is over," said Cruz, who became the first player since Gary Sheffield in 2005 to have three six-RBI games in the same season.
"Staying in the lineup is the only thing that matters. I don't like the decision, but the only thing I care about is being in the lineup."
The Angels, though, were still in the game when the Rangers came to bat in the fifth. Michael Young legged out an infield hit and was safe at second base as Angels shortstop Erick Aybar muffed a throw from second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Instead of getting one out and possibly two on the Mike Napoli grounder, the Rangers' first two batters reached. After Mitch Moreland struck out, Cruz reached on an infield single to load the bases.
Murphy followed. He missed a homer as he yanked a foul ball deep into the right-field corner, but straightened one out just enough to hug the right-field line for his second career grand slam.
It was 7-0. Haren, who entered with a 2.98 ERA, was done.
Cruz added a three-run homer in the sixth to complete the Rangers' attack, a night after they had been shut out on three singles.
"It felt great," said Murphy, who was prompted by the crowd of 38,256 to make a curtain call. "Every game from here on out is going to be our biggest game of the season. It's going to be a battle all weekend long, but we did a great job of starting the season off right."
Holland (12-5) kept the Rangers from falling into a first-inning hole for a fourth consecutive game after the first two Angels had reached. But Kendrick struck out, and the Rangers got an inning-ending double play as Torii Hunter struck out and Peter Bourjos was caught trying to steal third.
"The main thing is to make sure I could execute my pitch and get him out," Holland said. "I didn't realize that Bourjos took off, and that was a huge play by Napoli and Michael Young."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760