Improved pitching has helped the Texas Rangers remain contenders in the AL West this year, but it was an older formula that enabled them to end the Los Angeles Angels' six-game winning streak on Tuesday.
One night after slugging five home runs to even their series with the division leaders, the Rangers can pull within one-half game of Los Angeles on Wednesday with another victory as the clubs decide their three-game set.Before Tuesday's game, Texas (41-35) had dropped eight of 11 to surrender first place in the West to the Angels, who extended the Rangers' offensive slump and opened a 2 1/2-game lead by winning 5-2 in Monday's series opener.That was the sixth time in their previous nine games that the Rangers, who led the majors in runs in 2008, had scored two or fewer runs. Their bats finally awakened Tuesday, however, with Marlon Byrd hitting two of Texas' five homers and driving in five runs in a 9-5 win."That's something that we needed," said Byrd, who's 5 for 9 with three homers in the series.Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler each added his 19th homer of the season, and the Rangers will be getting another big bat back soon. Josh Hamilton announced Tuesday that he expects to return from the disabled list this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays."Hopefully, (Tuesday's win) will create some momentum for us," said outfielder David Murphy, who had the final home run Tuesday.They'll hope to stay hot against Jered Weaver (8-3, 2.65 ERA), who has looked increasingly vulnerable lately. The right-hander went 7-2 with a 2.08 ERA in his first 13 starts, capped by a five-hit shutout against San Diego on June 14.Weaver, though, has allowed nine runs in 11 1/3 innings in his last two starts. He still earned a victory against Arizona on Friday, working six innings in the 12-3 win."Weave wasn't as crisp tonight. It was good to get him some runs and give him a margin of error," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.Los Angeles didn't give him any support when he started against the Rangers on May 17. He allowed three runs in eight innings, getting credit for a complete game in a 3-0 loss.It could be difficult again for the Angels' bats against Kevin Millwood (8-5, 2.64) as two of the top six AL pitchers in ERA match up. Millwood is coming off a stellar month of June, during which he went 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA.He has anchored a staff with a 4.38 ERA -- nearly a run better than last year, when the Rangers' 5.37 team ERA ranked last in the majors."He's just a leader, and to go out there and lead the pitching staff like that, it takes the pressure off the offense," Murphy said of Millwood.Millwood beat the Angels on May 15, allowing two runs in six innings of a 10-8 victory during Texas' three-game sweep.Los Angeles (42-33) had won nine of 11 going into the May meetings, and the Angels were 13-3 in their last 16 games before Tuesday's loss snapped their six-game winning streak.They were also 7-2 at Rangers Ballpark last year, but they haven't found that success this season, starting 1-4 there.