Halos extend streak, lower magic number with sweep

Halos extend streak, lower magic number with sweep

ARLINGTON -- Their closer has been sidelined for the last five games, and they've won by an average margin of 7.2 runs in that span. Their cleanup hitter hasn't played since last Thursday, and the offense has scored 58 runs in a seven-game stretch without him. Their best starting pitcher was ruled out for the season on Aug. 20, but a collection of relievers has provided three wins in the four times his spot has come up since. The schedule-makers dealt them a 10-game, four-city road trip, and they came away with eight wins.

The Angels, riding a season-high eight-game winning streak after a 7-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday night, aren't letting anything stop them.

"We're showing our resiliency," manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys have been grinding it out. There's a room full of guys that are playing their hearts out. It's a long year. It's a grind. No matter if we get set back with a couple of bad games or we're on a roll like we are now, it's an important time of year."

This latest victory, an eight-reliever effort over nine innings, put them a season-best 36 games above .500 and 10 games up on the A's in the American League West, their magic number to clinch a division title whittled to seven with 16 games remaining. They've won 14 of their last 16, and they're the first visiting team to win nine games in one season at Globe Life Park.

After starting the road trip with back-to-back losses in Houston, the Angels took the next eight games, notching a plus-41 run-differential while Josh Hamilton was sidelined by a stiff right shoulder and Huston Street was unavailable with a tight right hamstring.

"Winning the last eight, it's big," third baseman David Freese said. "[We had a] rough time in Houston, but we turned the page and kept pushing."

The Angels have done that all season, especially since Garrett Richards went down with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee 22 days ago. Since then they've posted a Major League-best 16-5 record and pieced it together in a manner few, if any, thought possible.

Cory Rasmus (3 1/3 innings), Vinnie Pestano (two-thirds of an inning), Yoslan Herrera (two-thirds), Michael Roth (one batter), Mike Morin (1 1/3), Fernando Salas (one), Jason Grilli (one) and Joe Smith (one) held the last-place Rangers to three runs on seven hits as the Angels moved to 3-0 in the games Rasmus starts.

"I love it," Smith said. "In September you're not hoping for a bullpen day. You'd rather have Garrett Richards in the rotation. But we take adversity as it comes, when it comes. We're up for the challenge. It's not like, 'Oh, man, another bullpen day.' It's like, 'Let's go.' It's a unifying feeling for the coaching staff to have the confidence in us to do that."

Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin hit a leadoff homer, marking the first time the Angels have trailed since the bottom of the second on Sunday -- a span of 34 innings.

But Texas' lead didn't last long.

Erick Aybar laced a two-run homer in the second, his seventh on the season and first since June 29; Freese hit a two-out, two-run single in the third, giving him 12 hits in his last 27 at-bats; Kole Calhoun lined an RBI single in the seventh; and Grant Green hit a two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth, extending the Angels' lead to five.

The game could have turned contentious. In the fifth inning, Mike Trout was hit in his left triceps area for the second time on the night and the third time in the last two games, prompting him to sling his bat as he walked to first base.

Rangers starter Nick Martinez, responsible for both HBPs on Thursday, said he was "just trying to establish the fastball inside, and it got away from me."

And although Scioscia is sure there was no intent, he said, "When you are pitching inside, you can't pitch inside with reckless abandon."

Four innings later, Smith plunked catcher Tomas Telis near the waist with a first-pitch fastball to start the ninth inning. Both sides were warned, the next three outs were recorded without incident and the Angels won. Again.

"It's all good," Trout said. "I'm just happy we got the 'W.'"

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.