ARLINGTON -- They were in the midst of a miserable Sunday.
The Texas Rangers blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game 1 and found themselves in an early four-run deficit in Game 2. A loss would have been the Rangers' fifth in their last six games and would have shrunk their lead in the American League West to one game over Oakland.
At the end of the day, though, the Rangers were sipping a little champagne before taking off to Oakland.
Texas clinched its third consecutive postseason berth with an 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in Game 2 of Sunday's doubleheader. The Rangers are guaranteed to be at least one of the two AL wild-card teams but now are focused on securing their third division title.
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The Rangers will win the West with one victory against the A's this week.
"We had a light toast, and I congratulated them on what they accomplished to this point," manager Ron Washington said. "But there's unfinished business out there. We're very happy we got an opportunity to play in the postseason again, but our goal is not over with yet."
The road to a division title seemed to be getting tougher and tougher by the minute for the Rangers.
They let a 4-3 lead slip away in the ninth in Game 1 as closer Joe Nathan suffered his second blown save of September. He walked the Angels' No. 9 batter, Chris Iannetta, but the game-deciding hit was Torii Hunter's two-out, two-run double.
Things didn't go much better to start Game 2. Derek Holland allowed four runs in the first inning, including a two-run homer to Mark Trumbo.
"They got me that inning, but you've got to fight and you can't quit," Holland said. "These guys are out there grinding it out for me. I've got to go grind it out for them."
Holland did that by throwing five straight scoreless innings as the offense chipped away at the lead.
The Rangers scored a run in the bottom of the first on an RBI double by Josh Hamilton, and then David Murphy and Mike Napoli opened the second inning with solo shots off Angels starter Ervin Santana.
Napoli then deposited a three-run homer into the left-field seats with two outs in the third inning to give the Rangers a 6-4 lead.
Napoli continued his dominance against his former team by providing a pivotal two-run double in the fifth inning to cushion the Rangers' lead to 8-4.
"We needed to win tonight, and it was a good feeling for sure," Napoli said.
Holland kept the lead intact but stumbled in the seventh inning. He gave up a three-run homer to Howard Kendrick, as the Angels pulled to within 8-7.
But Robbie Ross got the final out of the seventh, and Koji Uehara struck out the side in the eighth. Despite Nathan throwing 28 pitches and blowing the save in Game 1, the Rangers turned to him to close it out.
And Nathan redeemed himself, working around a one-out walk to Hunter to convert his 37th save of the season.
"Any reliever would ask to get out there and try to put this afternoon's game behind him," Nathan said. "It's a roller coaster, and I try to keep it as even-keeled as possible. I try to keep my emotions in check even after I got that last out."
It was a day of highs and lows for the Rangers.
Or, as Murphy put it, "You can say the first game was ultimate heartbreak and the second game was ultimate gratification. The best part of the day was seeing Joe Nathan get a second chance and come through with it."
It wasn't all good news afterward, though.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre had a re-aggravation of a left shoulder strain, but Washington expects him to play tonight. And Michael Young exited with a sore left Achilles but said he would be ready tonight.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760