Rodriguez extends save record as Angels make easy work of Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Los Angeles has nearly reached all the goals it set out for in the regular season.

Now Angels record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez has his eyes set on a bigger prize.

"This could be the year that we win the championship," said Rodriguez, who burst on the scene when the Angels won the World Series title in 2002. "We have tremendous chemistry here. We're peaking in every department."

Rodriguez earned his 60th save and Garret Anderson homered and drove in three runs to help the Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 7-3 Saturday night.

The Angels (95-59) assured themselves of at homefield advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs with the win.

Los Angeles, which also has the best record in baseball, has a 2 1/2 game lead over AL East leader Tampa Bay in the race for the league's best mark and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Angels have a 20 1/2 game lead over the second-place Rangers, who have lost three in a row. Los Angeles can become the first AL team since Cleveland in 1999 to win a division by 20 games over their closest pursuer.

"It certainly has importance," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said of gaining homefield. "We have an opportunity to accomplish everything in the regular season that can be accomplished and that's important to us."

Rodriguez entered the game with two out and two on in the ninth to extend his MLB save record, which he set last Saturday against Seattle.

Scioscia said Friday he was going to give Rodriguez the next two games off. Scot Shields closed out Friday's win, but Rodriguez retired Nelson Cruz to preserve the lead in his 67th save opportunity.

Rodriguez has 18 more saves than Houston's Jose Valverde, who leads the National League.

"I feel so happy and so proud the way things have been going," Rodriguez said. "Saving 60 games is good, but I've got to keep going."

Anderson, who homered in the third, had an RBI single in the seventh when the American League West champs scored twice to take lead for good.

Justin Speier (2-8) struck out four in 1 2/3 innings of relief and got out of a key jam in the sixth to keep the game tied at 3.

Sean Rodriguez singled leading off the seventh and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Texas starter Vicente Padilla (13-8). After Erick Aybar singled, Rodriguez scored on an another wild pitch to put Los Angeles ahead. Anderson, who was 3-for-4, singled to right to score Aybar.

The Angels added two runs in the ninth for the 7-3 lead.

Padilla yielded five runs and seven hits in six innings. The right-hander struck out five and walked three.

The Rangers, who have the worst ERA in baseball, are now 12-28 against the four teams who right now occupy the four playoff spots. Texas is 5-10 against the Angels.

Texas outfielder Marlon Byrd said it is obvious what the difference between the Rangers and Angels is.

"Pitching," Byrd said. "We can out hit them all day long."

Angels spot starter Dustin Moseley allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. Moseley took the mound in place of Ervin Santana, who is getting extra rest with the playoffs approaching.

Hank Blalock, who was 4-for-4, tied the game at 3 with an RBI single in the sixth. After Moseley walked Nelson Cruz, Speier came into the game.

With runners on second and third, Speier ended Texas' threat by striking out Chris Davis and Ramon Vazquez.

Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving a game on Sept. 12 with right knee irritation. Guerrero, who jogged off the field when removed from the game, led off the sixth with a double and was removed for pinch-runner Kendry Morales.

"We wanted to work him back in the lineup," Scioscia said. "He'll play five innings (Sunday) and most likely DH."

Anderson hit a two-run homer, his 15th, that gave the Angels a 2-0 lead in the third.

Game notes
Rangers SS Michael Young was given a day off to rest an ailing right finger. Young had left the past two games early after irritating a fractured right ring finger. German Duran filled in for Young, who said he expects to be back in the lineup Sunday. ... Angels CF Torii Hunter was 0-for-3 and is hitting .373 (19-for-51) against the Rangers this season. ... Rangers manager Ron Washington and Vazquez were ejected in the seventh. ... During a pitching change in the ninth, three security guards chased and caught a fan who made it on the field. The fan was casually talking to the three Texas outfielders when security ran out to apprehend him.