July 20, 2012

Rangers harnessed by Weaver, Angels in series opener 6-1

Jered Weaver allows six hits in seven innings and Derek Holland is lacking as Los Angeles cuts Texas' lead to five games.

At no point Friday night did Derek Holland stop throwing his sinker, which was lacking one very important element — sink.

He battled, he would say afterward, and never backed down.

Jered Weaver, meanwhile, also was without his best stuff, yet he wiggled free the two times he found trouble and held the Texas Rangers to one run in seven innings.

The All-Star outpitched the left-hander with All-Star potential, and Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout hit home runs as Anaheim opened a key three-game series with a 6-1 victory.

The Angels trimmed the Rangers' division lead to five games with 12 more remaining between them this season. They return to Angel Stadium for a 3:05 p.m. game Saturday afternoon.

Holland was satisfied overall with his performance. Battling is important, but so is making the right adjustment.

“I didn't have my sinker. We continued to push for it all game, but we never got the action we were looking for,” Holland said. “I still went right after them and didn't ever give in.”

Elvis Andrus homered for the Rangers' only run, in the second at-bat of the game. Mike Napoli and Craig Gentry had hits in their first two at-bats, and Napoli had his first three-hit game since May 13.

But he and Gentry were stranded in the third inning and fifth in what proved to be the best opportunities against Weaver (12-1).

The first was a golden opportunity after Napoli started with a single and went to third as Gentry followed with a double. But the Rangers wouldn't score as Ian Kinsler popped out and Josh Hamilton bounced into a double play after Andrus had walked.

It was only the third time Hamilton had grounded into a double play this season.

“I don't hit into that many,” he said. “I was looking for a heater and got a heater. I jammed myself a little bit.”

Said manager Ron Washington: “That was our opportunity there.”

That missed chance bit the Rangers in the fourth as four of the first five Angels collected hits, including a two-run double for Erick Aybar for a 4-1 lead.

Napoli and Gentry were at first and second in the fifth with one out, but Kinsler again popped out and Andrus hit a one-hopper to second base to end the threat.

Weaver needed 89 pitches to get through five innings and finished at 116. The Rangers often make him pile up pitches, but he improved to 8-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his career against them in home games.

“He did a good job of getting himself out of a couple jams,” first baseman Michael Young said. “We made him work. He threw a lot of pitches. We had some opportunities, but he made some pitches.”

Holland (6-5) would issue solo shots to Trumbo and Trout in the sixth and seventh, and the Trout homer to the opposite field came on Holland's 98th and final pitch.

Sixty-three of them were strikes, but he didn't strike out a batter for the first start in more than a year. He has done that four times in his career, and the Rangers have lost each time.

“I caught a little too much plate when I was trying to put them away,” he said. “But I kept going after them.”

But the Angels kept on hitting.

How Rangers pitchers fared: Derek Holland lost for the first time in three starts since coming off the disabled list. He had moments of brilliance followed by stretches when he couldn't throw quality strikes. Too many of those sent him to his fifth loss of the season.

How Rangers hitters fared: Their woes with runners in scoring position continued. Their missed opportunity in the third, when they had runners at second and third with not outs, was a key moment. Mike Napoli and Craig Gentry combined for five hits from the last two spots in the lineup.

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