ANAHEIM -- C.J. Cron's two-run home run off rookie reliever Ricardo Rodriguez capped a five-run sixth inning and propelled the Angels to a 7-6 comeback win over the Rangers in Friday night's series opener at Angel Stadium.
Shin-Soo Choo briefly gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead with a two-run shot in the top of the sixth, but the Angels rallied in the bottom half of the inning behind RBI hits from Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons, a sacrifice fly from Luis Valbuena and Cron's 15th home run of the season.
The Rangers scored twice in the eighth to pull within one, but Blake Parker converted a six-out save to seal the Angels' Major League-best 44th comeback victory of the season.
The Angels moved within two games of the Twins for the second American League Wild Card spot with 15 games left to play, while the Rangers stayed five games back after losing four in a row.
"We're in a big race and every run matters," Cron said. "We want to do whatever we can to make this playoff run. You can tell by the way the dugout reacts to pretty much every run we score, it's exciting at this time, and hopefully we can continue playing well."
Angels second baseman Brandon Phillips was also removed after seven innings with tightness in his side, but he said afterward that he expects to be "alright."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Simmons shines both ways: The Angels shortstop had a pair of singles with runners in scoring position, including one in the five-run sixth. Simmons is hitting .310 with runners in scoring position this season, 57 points higher than his .253 career batting average. Simmons also had a couple of outstanding diving stops to take away hits from Nicholas in the third and Will Middlebrooks in the seventh.
"I've been feeling OK and seeing the ball good, but sometimes you've got to ride that luck when it's not falling," said Simmons, who entered Friday with just three hits in his last 28 at-bats. "But tonight I felt a little extra better, especially after the first one fell."
Parker limits the damage:Cam Bedrosian entered the game in the eighth with the Angels ahead, 7-4, but he fell into trouble after yielding back-to-back singles to Nicholas and Delino DeShields and walking Choo to load the bases with no outs. Manager Mike Scioscia decided to bring in Parker, who gave up a pair of sacrifice flies to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre but struck out Drew Robinson to preserve the Angels' 7-6 lead. Parker then came back to pitch a scoreless ninth, ending the game. More >
"For him to just keep the lead after that eighth inning is huge," Scioscia said. "He made great pitches all the way. Big strikeout to end the inning and then a clean ninth. Blake, he showed up big time today."
"I was trying to keep the team in the game and help us win. Tonight was just a tough one." -- Rangers starter Martinez
"This is when baseball gets fun. Last year we were out of the playoffs at this time, and it wasn't quite as fun. I know everyone in this clubhouse wants to win, and we're going to do whatever it takes to do that." -- Cron, on the Angels' chase for a Wild Card berth
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the fourth, Kole Calhoun launched a fly ball to left field that hit off the top of the wall and bounced back into the outfield for an RBI double. The Angels requested a crew chief review of the play, which confirmed that the ball did not go out for a home run. Calhoun's double scored Upton with the Angels first run and Calhoun scored on a single by Simmons.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers:Cole Hamels starts against the Angels at 8:07 p.m. CT Saturday in Anaheim. Hamels, who beat the Mariners in his last outing, is 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four starts against the Angels this season.
Angels: Angels right-hander Parker Bridwell (7-2, 3.94 ERA) will take the mound against the Rangers on Saturday at 6:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Bridwell, who allowed two runs over six innings in his last start against the Mariners, will make his first career appearance against Texas.