Rangers topple Angels to take series

Rangers topple Angels to take series

ARLINGTON -- This is how the Rangers drew it up.

A.J. Murray, making his first Major League start, going deep enough in the game so Jamey Wright could finish it. Well, both did their jobs on Tuesday night.

Murray was sharp for five innings, allowing one run, and Wright tossed four scoreless innings leading the Rangers past the American League West champion Angels, 3-1, for their third consecutive win and second straight over Los Angeles at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Although he didn't get the win, Murray, who had pitched just 17 Major League innings in 12 relief appearances entering the game, proved he has the makings as a future left-handed starter. He traversed through five innings with 73 pitches, scattering five hits -- one that found the left-field seats in the fifth inning. Murray worked the count full before leaving a fastball up over the plate that Angels outfielder Erick Aybar sent 362 feet for his first career home run.

"Just one bad pitch, and I'm not actually sure how he got on top of it," said Murray, who made just one start in 41 games at Triple-A Oklahoma. "You really can't go off one start, but I showed I can go deep in the game. I'm sure it puts a little thing in the back of [the Rangers' staff] heads, that I'd like to go out and start."

After giving up the solo shot to Aybar, Murray responded by striking out Jeff Mathis, then gave up a single to Reggie Willits. Willits stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. That didn't bother Murray, though, as he got Chone Figgins to fly out to right to end the inning.

Wright finished the game and continued to solidify himself as a strong bullpen reliever. The Rangers offense backed Murray and Wright, scoring three runs off Angels reliever Darren Oliver in the sixth. One came home on an Oliver balk and the other two on RBI singles from Hank Blalock and David Murphy.

With his solid outing, Murray put himself in the mix to start the final game of the season, Sunday at Seattle.

"A.J. went out there and handled himself very well by pounding the strike zone all night," manager Ron Washington said. "But, again, I can't say enough about what Jamey did to come out and finish the game. The way he's been throwing the ball since he's been in the bullpen, he's been doing an awesome job."

Wright, who has been in the 'pen since the beginning of August, allowed just two hits with two strikeouts over the final four innings, using 56 pitches, 41 of which went for strikes.

In 10 relief appearances this season, Wright has a 2.05 ERA allowing five runs over 30 2/3 innings. However, Wright is a free agent after this season. But he is a guy Washington wants back?

"Of course I do," Washington said. "The way he's been throwing, his stuff has always been good, but he's been awesome coming out of the bullpen. He's backed off his fastball, working fast -- and if you do that, that's how you get the results we're getting."

Wright has been a journeyman pitcher his entire career: six stops in nine years, with his most recent ones being in San Francisco (2006), Colorado (2004-05) and Kansas City (2003) before signing with Texas this past January. Unlike previous years, when teams moved him from the rotation to the bullpen, Wright approached it this season as an opportunity to establish himself as a bullpen reliever and has enjoyed his recent success.

"I'm having a lot of fun, I really am, with what I'm doing," Wright said. "I'm not necessarily saying I want to go throw once every six days and go four innings every six days. If I'm in the bullpen, I want to get a few holds, pitch late in the game with leads, whatever it is. I'm learning on the job, so to speak, this season."

With the win, the Rangers have won two straight against the division champs with rookie starters and will go for the sweep with another rookie in Luis Mendoza starting on Wednesday. Texas hasn't swept the Angels in Texas since Sept. 21-23, 2001. The wins, however, came against an Angels lineup without sluggers Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson.

Trailing by a run, the Rangers rallied for three in the sixth. Ian Kinsler led off with a single and moved to second on Michael Young's grounder. Marlon Byrd followed with a broken-bat single to put runners on first and third. Angels pitcher and former Ranger Oliver was then called for a balk, allowing Kinsler to score and Byrd to advance to second. Blalock ripped Oliver's fastball to right to bring in Byrd and scored on Murphy's single to right.

"Oliver tried to sneak a fastball past Hank, and that's like trying to sneak cheese past a rat," Washington quipped. "Hank is a gamer. He finds a way to get it done."

The Rangers will try to get it done again on Wednesday afternoon in the final home game of the season.

"We want to come out, sweep the series and finish up strong at home," Kinsler, who went 3-for-4 on Tuesday, said.

Drew Davison is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.