ANAHEIM -- The Rangers gave Vicente Padilla not one but two leads, and he couldn't hold them. They got to All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning, but couldn't turn it into a victory. Instead they saw their five-game winning streak come to an end when the Angels squeaked out a run and held off the Rangers for a 7-6 victory on a warm and unusually humid night at Angel Stadium on Friday.
The victory gave the Angels the best record in the Major Leagues, while the Rangers dropped to 14-14 in August, missing out a chance for their third straight winning month. "We're playing a team that's in first place and has been playing good all year," designated hitter Sammy Sosa said. "We went out there and battled. You have to feel good about the way we played. I know we came up empty, but we went out and played a good game. There's a reason why they're in first place." Manager Ron Washington admires the Angels as much as anybody. But he knew that this game turned on a few plays that he said, "had nothing to do with the Angels." The Rangers also went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position on a night when they had 14 hits. "We had our chances," Washington said. "We battled hard, but they just had the last at-bat and made it work for them." The Angels' winning rally started when reliever Frank Francisco, after pitching a scoreless ninth, walked Garret Anderson to start the 10th. Maicer Izturis then bunted him to second and Kendry Morales was walked intentionally. Casey Kotchman forced Morales with a grounder to third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr., and that brought up Howie Kendrick. Kendrick hit a grounder back up the middle past Francisco that second baseman Ian Kinsler got a glove on, but had no play, allowing Anderson to score the winning run. "He hit it in the perfect spot," Washington said. "We just couldn't get there in time to make the perfect play." Washington was more concerned about what happened before that inning, particularly in the bottom of the fifth and seventh. Padilla took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth and retired the first two batters in the inning. That brought up Vladimir Guerrero, and the Rangers employed their shift, using three infielders to the left of second base while first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia played halfway between first and second. Guerrero hit a chopper up the middle that Saltalamacchia went for, but Kinsler got to cutting across the infield. He had plenty of time to get the slow-footed Guerrero, but Padilla forgot to cover first. Anderson then jumped on a first-pitch fastball and hit it over the right-field wall for a two-run home run, giving the Angels a 5-4 lead. "Padilla brain-locked," Washington said. "We forgot to cover first and then we throw a first-pitch fastball. That's our fault. That had nothing to do with the Angels." The Angels added a key run in the seventh after putting runners at second and third with one out. Washington had the infield in for Guerrero, who hit a grounder to Kinsler at second. Kinsler went home with the throw, but it was high and Jeff Mathis slid home with a crucial run. "He hit the ball off the end of the bat," Kinsler said. "It had a weird spin and it basically froze me. Even if I had made a good throw, I think he's safe." The run was big. Nelson Cruz hit a home run off Justin Speier in the eighth and the Rangers actually got to Rodriguez in the ninth to tie the game. Michael Young, with one out, rolled a ball up the third-base line for an infield hit and then stole second base as Sosa swung and missed at an 0-1 pitch. Sosa, with the count 0-2, then chipped a little popup over the head of Kotchman at first base for a game-tying single. Marlon Byrd, after forcing Sosa with a grounder to third, then stole his way into scoring position, but Rodriguez struck out Jason Botts to end the inning. On this night, the Rangers could neither hold a lead nor quite finish a comeback. "The Angels have a good team," Washington said. "They send guys up there who know how to play. They put the ball in play and they have some power. They pitch and they play defense. They have some speed in the outfield. They have a little bit of everything. But I like the way we fought them tonight."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.