Angels reduce magic number to 11 with defeat of Rangers

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Garret Anderson supplied the power from an unfamiliar spot in the batting order. Torii Hunter pulled the plug on the Texas Rangers with another Gold Glove performance in center field.

Anderson hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning and Hunter robbed Marlon Byrd of a two-run shot one inning later, leading the Los Angeles Angels to a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

"Most guys curse me out from a distance on those kind of plays. You can tell," Hunter said. "So I try not to make eye contact with those guys, unless it's a friend of mine. Marlon's a good guy, but I just didn't want to make eye contact with him because I know he's pretty upset."

Hank Blalock led off the Texas seventh with a double and Byrd followed with a towering drive toward the fence, where Hunter timed his leap perfectly and grabbed it with his glove hanging over the other side.

"It was a long run and the ball was beating me there, so I knew I had to get over the wall and I caught it face-first going into the wall," Hunter said. "It was pretty painful. It felt like Mike Tyson hit me. I tasted the green monster and it was pretty nasty. It tasted like collard greens. I'd like a strawberry wall out there or something like that."

The spectacular catch came three days after Hunter was knocked woozy by a thrown ball that struck him in the back of the head while he slid into third base against the Oakland Athletics.

After the inning, the seven-time Gold Glove winner got a standing ovation from the crowd of 40,084, who chanted his first name several times before he acknowledged them with a tip of his cap.

"I was 0-for-3 tonight, but you can make it up with your glove because that never goes into a slump," Hunter said. "To do that was big. I was excited. That one is pretty high on my list."

Anderson, the Angels' all-time leader in hits and RBIs, drove a 1-1 pitch by Dustin Nippert (1-4) to right field with one out in the sixth for his 14th homer after a single by Chone Figgins.

Anderson hit in the No. 2 spot in the batting order for the first time since way back on Sept. 14, 1999 at Kansas City.

"It was something different," Anderson said. "When you're playing every day, Mike (Scioscia) usually does something out of the norm to spark some interest. He's won't just xerox the lineup and throw the same one out there every day. Mike's always been the type of manager who isn't going to let us spin our wheels too long and he isn't afraid to change anything. But I still had to approach it like I do when I'm further down in the lineup."

Nippert faced three more batters, allowing a single by Mark Teixeira and two walks before Juan Rivera capped the rally with a sacrifice fly against Warner Madrigal.

"He did an excellent job," manager Ron Washington said of Nippert. "He really held a pretty good team down and got us deep into the ballgame. But we left a pitch up in the zone in the sixth, and you don't leave pitches up in the zone to Garret Anderson too often, and that was one that he took out. I was hoping that he missed it, but he didn't."

The Angels increased their AL West lead over the Rangers to 17 games and reduced their magic number to 11. The club has never clinched earlier than Sept. 23, which they did last year. The fewest games it ever took the franchise to nail down a division title was 153 games in 1986. If they beat the Rangers the next two days, they will have a magic number of 7 on Sept. 1.

"I've been on the other end of that. I've been 40 games out before, so I know what that feels like," Anderson said.

Ervin Santana (14-5) allowed a run and five hits over eight innings and struck out seven. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 52nd save in 57 chances, putting him within five of Bobby Thigpen's single-season record with the 1990 Chicago White Sox.

Nippert was charged with three runs and five hits over 5 1/3 innings in his second spot start for the ailing Vicente Padilla. His other one was on Aug. 17, when he gave up seven runs over four innings in a 7-4 loss against Tampa Bay.

Padilla, in the second year of a three-year, $33.75 million contract, hasn't pitched since last Friday because of inflammation in a muscle joint between his right shoulder and neck.

In all likelihood, Nippert will get another start in his place next Wednesday, because Padilla also is having problems with his left hamstring, which bothered him during Friday's side session a few days after he tweaked it in Kansas City during his normal sprint work. General manager Jon Daniels said he expects to put Padilla on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday.

Another roster move Daniels expects to make on Saturday will be to activate right-hander Kameron Loe, who was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma last Saturday. Under baseball rules, Loe had to spend a minimum of 10 days in the minors following his demotion, but will be allowed to rejoin the Rangers earlier because of an injury to a teammate.

Texas DH Milton Bradley opened the scoring with a broken-bat RBI single in the fourth inning after Michael Young doubled and tagged up on a flyout by Josh Hamilton.

Game notes
The Rangers have squandered a lead 44 times this season, the most in the majors. ... The Rangers recalled RHP Luis Mendoza from Oklahoma and LHP Bill White was optioned to Class-A Bakersfield club until their season ends on Monday, then rejoin the Rangers when the rosters expand to a maximum of 40.