ANAHEIM -- Young slugger C.J. Cron put the Angels on his back on Friday night, finishing a homer shy of the cycle and driving in five runs while leading his team to a 5-2 victory over the division-rival Rangers in Southern California.
The Angels, coming off a 19-loss August, have started September with three straight wins and are now 2 1/2 back of the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. Texas fell to three games back of the Astros in the AL West and maintained a 1 1/2-game lead on the Twins for the final playoff spot.
"We play them plenty more times, and we knew that coming in," Cron said of the Rangers, whom the Angels play in six more games this season. "It's about that time where we have to start winning. This is a good opponent to start with."
Angels starter Garrett Richards was charged with just two runs in six-plus innings -- one of them scored while he was out of the game in the seventh -- despite walking five batters and striking out only one. Rangers lefty Martin Perez entered with a 3.13 ERA in his last five starts and gave up three runs in six innings, scattering five hits and walking four while battling food poisoning.
Cron gave the Angels a 2-0 lead with a bloop single in the third, drove in another run with his second career triple in the fifth -- on a liner that bounced off the center-field wall -- and added a two-run double in the right-center field gap in the seventh. All of his hits came with two outs.
"We've had our challenges with C.J. this year, and he showed up big for them again tonight with the three two-out hits, two of them with two strikes," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Other than that, we felt like we pitched everybody else pretty good. But yeah, it was C.J. Cron's night."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cron me: Cron, starting in the cleanup spot with a lefty on the mound, has been mashing since getting called back up from Triple-A in late June, batting .325 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 51 games. He batted .321 in the month of August, while the rest of the team combined for a .211 batting average, and he's been a thorn in the Rangers' side all season. In 12 games against Texas, Cron has hit .460 (23-for-50) with 17 RBIs. More >
"My timing is good," Cron said. "I'm playing basically every day now, so I'm definitely more comfortable in the box than I was earlier. I think getting sent down was good for me, getting a hundred or so AB's down there, coming back and feeling comfortable."
Jackson can't keep it close:Luke Jackson's Major League debut for the Rangers did not go well -- the right-hander entered the game in the seventh with his team down only a run, but he couldn't get out of the inning. Jackson gave up a one-out infield single to Kole Calhoun, then walked Mike Trout, and after retiring Albert Pujols for the second out, Cron burned him. The two-run double pushed the Rangers' deficit to three runs and ended Jackson's night. More >
'D'-nied:Shane Victorino made a lunging, stumbling catch in the left-center-field gap to end the fifth and shortstop Erick Aybar made a heads-up play to end the sixth, cutting off Victorino's throw home after a sac fly and firing to second to nail Mitch Moreland for a double play. Replay confirmed that Prince Fielder slid home just before the final out, however. In the ninth, closer Huston Street snagged a hard liner off the bat of Delino DeShields and flipped to first for a double play.
"Up until probably August we had given up very few unearned runs; we were doing very well with that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "There's no doubt that we have to continue to make the plays defensively. August is a month that we've turned the page on. Hopefully we're going to do things better in all parts of our game."
Perez fights through stomach bug: Perez's stomach was bothering him -- the Rangers right-hander said he had gotten food poisoning on Thursday night after eating a couple of bad tacos -- but he still battled to give the Rangers a quality start. He pitched six innings, allowing three runs on 95 pitches, although his four walks did tie a season high.
"August is over with, September has started and everybody has just kind of turned the page. We have some of our guys back from injuries and I feel like we have a pep in our step now. We're just looking forward." -- Richards, on the Angels getting off to a good start in September
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rangers leadoff hitter DeShields grounded into two double plays against the Angels, something he hadn't done even once this season over 383 plate appearances.
Friday actually marked the second-most RBIs Cron has had against the Rangers this season. He had six against them on July 4. It was his seventh game with at least three hits, and five of those have come against the Rangers.
Victorino smashed into the left-center-field fence while trying to chase down Choo's eventual RBI triple in the seventh, banging his left wrist and then smacking his face against the wall. The veteran outfielder was on his back for a few seconds, while Angels manager Mike Scioscia and athletic trainer Rick Smith jogged out to check on him. After getting evaluated, though, Victorino remained in the game.
"He just went all-out and ran out of room, really," Scioscia said. "Thankfully he's OK."
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Derek Holland (2-1, 2.82 ERA) takes the mound for the Rangers in the second game at Angel Stadium at 8:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. Holland will make his fifth start since returning from a torn muscle in his throwing shoulder that kept him out since April. He threw a three-hit, 11-strikeout shutout in his last start against the Orioles.
Angels:Jered Weaver (6-10, 4.94 ERA) opposes Holland in hopes of getting back on track at 6:05 p.m. PT on Saturday. The 32-year-old right-hander posted a 2.08 ERA in his first three starts since coming off the disabled list, but combined to give up 14 runs in 11 2/3 innings in his last two starts in Detroit and Cleveland. Weaver was hurt by three fly balls that should've been caught, though.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.