By Austin Laymance and Abbey Mastracco
ANAHEIM -- In a matchup of pitchers in their first seasons back from Tommy John surgery, Yu Darvish and Tyler Skaggs dueled for six scoreless innings. While the focus initially was on the starters on Friday night, it was Adrian Beltre's solo home run in the eighth that proved to be the difference as the first-place Rangers defeated the Angels, 2-1, in the opener of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
After both teams traded runs in the seventh -- the Rangers scoring against reliever Mike Morin, and Andrelton Simmons responding with a two-out, RBI triple off Darvish -- Beltre delivered the go-ahead run with a missile to left field off JC Ramirez.
The victory, coupled with an Astros loss, lowered the Rangers' magic number to clinch the American League West to 12 games. Texas owns the best record in the AL (84-58), remaining one game ahead of the Indians in the race for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
"We needed a quality game to start the series and we needed a quality start," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "We're going through the run of starters and had been challenged, but Yu gave us a great start tonight."
Skaggs struck out eight against four walks and allowed two hits, but he was removed after making 95 pitches over six innings, and the Rangers quickly capitalized against the Angels' bullpen, taking the lead three batters into the seventh.
"I thought I was mixing the pitches well, [catcher Jett Bandy] called a good game and kept the team in the game," Skaggs said.
"Those guys did a good job," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of the battery. "Unfortunately our bullpen couldn't come in and do the job."
Simmons was down, 0-2, against Darvish before battling back to a 2-2 count and lining a triple into the gap in right-center on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, scoring Jefry Marte and tying the game at 1. Matt Bush (7-2), who relieved Darvish and struck out Bandy to end the inning, picked up the win.
Skaggs underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2014. Darvish had the procedure in March last year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Beltre continues tear vs. Angels: Beltre's 27th homer was projected to travel 415 feet and had an exit velocity of 106 mph, according to Statcast™. Beltre has homered 38 times against the Angels, tying Cal Ripken Jr. for the fifth-most by an opponent, and 20 times at Angel Stadium, also the fifth-most.
Beltre, who still resides in Los Angeles in the offseason, said the secret to his success in Anaheim is simple: "Home cooking."
Darvish dazzles: Darvish struck out nine, including Mike Trout and Albert Pujols twice each. Trout has now struck out against Darvish 13 times in his career. Darvish exited after allowing the tying run in the seventh, having allowed one run on three hits and one walk. With the no-decision, he remains winless (0-3) on the road this season. He's 5-1 at Globe Life Park.
"[My slider] was working; it was really important," Darvish said. "When I went out there and threw strikes, they were taking it, and when I threw a ball, they were swinging and missing. That was a really big part of my game today." More >
Skaggs sizzles: Skaggs turned in his third consecutive dominant start with six scoreless innings. He settled for a no-decision and is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings across his last three outings. The left-hander's eight strikeouts tied a season high.
"He shows so much promise, and I'm excited to play behind him going forward," Simmons said of Skaggs. More >
More hits for Moreland:Mitch Moreland snapped a 1-for-15 skid with two doubles. Moreland reached base three times and scored the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, coming home on an RBI single by Elvis Andrus as Texas took a 1-0 lead.
Odor exits with hamstring injury: Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor exited the game in the bottom of the eighth with hamstring tightness. However, Banister said it was only a precautionary move and he will likely be available for Saturday's game.
"He just felt a little tightness in the lower half," Banister said. "I made the decision to take him out, to get him off his legs. We'll make a decision tomorrow to see if plays or not or if we give him a day."
"That's why he carries that team. He does that pretty much day in and day out. He puts up good at-bats, comes up with big hits and he killed us tonight with that late homer." -- Simmons, on Beltre
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Coming off the shortest start of his career, Cole Hamels looks to regain form against the Angels at 8:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. Hamels has given up 13 earned runs over his past two starts (both against Seattle), but the lefty still has a 14-5 record with a 3.25 ERA.
Angels:Daniel Wright makes his Angels debut Saturday in the second of three games against the Rangers this weekend. Wright, claimed off waivers from the Reds, will become the 15th pitcher to start a game for the Angels this season. He has not appeared in the Majors since June 13. First pitch at Angel Stadium is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. PT.