ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The timing couldn't be much worse for Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre to miss an extended stretch from the Texas Rangers' lineup.
That possibility exists, though, after they were sacked Tuesday by vision and intestinal issues that kept both of them out of a key game Wednesday against the Anaheim Angels.
The Rangers will have a better idea on how long their All-Star sluggers will be out at some point today. They haven't ruled out seeing Hamilton and Beltre in the lineup for the finale at Angel Stadium.
But the one thing they need as they charge down the stretch and toward a potential third consecutive division title is quality pitching from a healthy pitching staff.
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While the big news Wednesday was not having Hamilton and Beltre, the Rangers had Derek Holland turning in another quality performance from a pitching staff that is coming together.
And the timing couldn't be much better.
Holland worked seven strong innings, and the Rangers struck early against C.J. Wilson and late against the Angels' generous bullpen to take a 6-2 victory.
“It starts and ends with pitching,” veteran Michael Young said. “That's one part of the game we can't reinvent. Everything is starting to shape up.”
The win, coupled with an Oakland loss, padded the Rangers' lead in the American League West by another game. The margin is four with 14 games remaining, and the third-place Angels slid to 7½ games back.
Geovany Soto delivered the knockout punch, a two-run homer in a three-run eighth inning off Mansfield product Jordan Walden, and the Rangers collected three extra-base hits in the third to knock out Wilson.
The first was an RBI triple by Elvis Andrus, and Young and Mike Napoli added RBI doubles as Wilson lasted only 2 2/3 innings. Nelson Cruz jump-started the eighth with an RBI double to score Young.
The key to getting Wilson was not chasing his pitches out of the strike zone. And there were 31 of them out of the 66 he threw.
“We know C.J. knows we're a very aggressive bunch of guys,” manager Ron Washington said. “He stayed C.J. and tried to get us to go out of the zone.”
The Angels' only runs came on a two-run homer by Alberto Callaspo in the fifth.
They ran themselves out of two innings, as Craig Gentry doubled up Westlake resident Vernon Wells after a deep Callaspo drive in the second inning and gunned down Albert Pujols in the sixth as he tried to stretch a single into a double.
Holland, though, was effective throughout. He commanded his fastball and did enough with his off-speed pitches to get through seven innings when it looked like he might not get through six.
He registered his sixth straight quality start and fourth straight of at least seven innings and no more than two runs, but said he's just trying to keep pace with fellow starters Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish.
“I feel it's the right time to keep things going,” said Holland, who improved to 11-6. “Harrison and Darvish have been very consistent and have been carrying us. It's my job to get things going.”
The bullpen was back together, too, as Mike Adams and Joe Nathan worked a scoreless inning apiece in their first appearances since last week.
Robbie Ross is healthy, too. Koji Uehara is as sharp as he's been since the Rangers acquired him. Ryan Demspter, Tuesday's hiccup aside, has been an effective addition to the rotation.
Everything is starting to come together on the mound. That's the key to the Rangers' success, especially if Hamilton and Beltre are forced to miss an extended stretch.
“It's at the right time,” Washington said. “All we can do is hope they stay healthy. If they stay healthy, I feel good about it.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760