"I don't want you guys to forget it, but we're the two-time defending American League champs," manager Ron Washington said. "They came up in here and took two games and we fought back like champs. They're not going away. We're not going away."
The Angels erased a 6-2 Rangers lead after scoring four runs in the fourth inning. Making his debut for the team that drafted him 17 years ago, Dempster left the game in the fifth with the Rangers trailing, 8-7. Nelson Cruz tied the game at 8 with a home run, his sixth in his last 11 games, before the Rangers rallied to score four in the seventh and take the lead for good.
"The team that stepped on the field yesterday is a completely different one than the one that's leaving here tonight," Rangers left fielder David Murphy said. "We swung the bat in April. It's hard to actually remember that feeling, but either way, these past two nights were as good as any."
After Dempster's departure, the Rangers' bullpen held the Angels scoreless until Joe Nathan gave up a two-out homer to Alberto Callaspo in the ninth. Roy Oswalt, sent to the bullpen after the Rangers acquired Dempster from the Cubs, threw two scoreless innings in his first relief appearance since 2010 and earned the win.
"He was the reason that we had a chance to win that game," Washington said. "He's a veteran. He's been around. Once he takes that mound, a pride factor kicks in. He certainly did a good job for those two innings that he was out there. We certainly needed it and he gave it to us."
Dempster did not have the debut he expected, but thanks to an explosive Rangers offense he did not suffer the loss. For just the third time in 17 starts this year, he got more than four runs of run support.
"The most important thing was I kept the team in the ballgame and gave us a chance to win," Dempster said. "I'm not really used to that, giving up eight runs. It was quite an offensive outburst and a good win for us."
"We took advantage of his mistakes," said Angels left fielder Mark Trumbo, who went deep off Dempster in the first inning for his hit his 28th homer of the year. "We were pretty selective, too. He's got a lot of off-speed stuff, and if he wasn't throwing it for strikes, I think most of the guys did a good job laying off."
The 26 runs the Rangers have scored in their last two games are the most they have scored over a two-game stretch this season. Seven Rangers, including recently acquired catcher Geovany Soto, recorded multiple hits. Soto went 2-for-5 with a pair of runs and two RBIs. Mike Olt, making his Major League debut, singled off C.J. Wilson in his first at-bat as a big leaguer, his only hit in three at-bats.
"It was something I'll never forget," Olt said. "It was definitely an experience I've worked hard for my whole entire career. It was a special moment to be out there with these guys."
Olt was replaced by pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland in the seventh inning to face right-hander David Carpenter. He brought Michael Young home from second base with an RBI single to give the Rangers a 9-8 lead. The Rangers scored three more times in the inning, capped off by a two-run, two-out ground-rule double by Josh Hamilton to put the game out of reach. Hamilton went 2-for-6 with four RBIs, bringing his season total to a Major League-best 88 as he has driven in 10 runs in his last nine games.
"I figured I'd play good in the first two months, [stink] in the middle two, and then pick it up again in the last two," Hamilton said. "I'm having fun, which is obviously key for me. When I have a smile on my face, good things are going to happen."
In his fourth start against his former team, Wilson gave up more runs than he did in the first three. Wilson, who entered Thursday with a 2.70 road ERA this season, the best in the Majors, gave up eight runs on 10 hits, striking out seven and walking three over 5 1/3 innings.