Rangers drop second straight to Halos

Rangers drop second straight to Halos

ARLINGTON -- Travis Metcalf, normally a third baseman, made his professional debut at shortstop on Saturday night.

Metcalf's unexpected appearance was the result of Michael Young not being able to start because of his injured finger, Joaquin Arias getting pinch-hit for in the sixth inning and Ramon Vazquez getting thrown out of the game in the seventh.

German Duran actually started the game at shortstop, but he moved over to second base after Arias and Vazquez were sent to the clubhouse. Vazquez was ejected not when he struck out to end the sixth, but when Duran struck out to start the seventh.

You couldn't tell the Rangers' middle infield without a scorecard on Saturday, but the scoreboard was plain and clear, and so are the American League West standings. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roughed up Vicente Padilla for five runs in six-plus innings and went on to a 7-3 victory over the Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Angels, with their second straight victory, now lead the Rangers by 20 1/2 games in the AL West. The Rangers, with their fifth loss in their last seven games, are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Athletics in their bid to finish higher than third place for the first time since 1999.

"It is what it is," Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "We just have to play the best we can in these final seven games and try to win as many games as we possibly can."

The Rangers have lost 10 of 15 to the Angels this year, with a staff ERA of 5.89 in those games.

"That's the difference, pitching," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "We can outhit them all game long, but sometimes pitching negates good hitting."

Still, Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted that it's hard to imagine a team winning the division by 20 1/2 games. The largest winning margin is 22 games by the Yankees in winning the AL East in 1998.

"That's a pretty good team over there," Washington said. "They've got everything -- pitching, they catch the ball and make the plays, they hit, they run the bases and they've got a good bullpen. When they have a chance to put the game away, they usually do it."

Both Vazquez and Washington were ejected after Duran was called out on strikes to start the seventh. Vazquez was tossed for yelling from the dugout while still fuming over a called strike in the sixth inning. Vazquez, pinch-hitting for Arias, struck out to end the inning with runners on second and third. He had to be dragged away from home-plate umpire Tom Hallion by Milton Bradley, but he still could be looking at a possible suspension.

"I've never seen him lose it like that," Washington said. "I was just trying to protect him. The umpire said something, and I said the wrong thing to him."

The Rangers, despite four hits by Hank Blalock and a pair of doubles from Byrd, were a combined 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Francisco Rodriguez came in with two outs in the ninth and got Nelson Cruz to fly out for his Major League record 60th save.

Blalock matched a career high with his 12th four-hit game of the season. Bradley, his hopes for a batting title fading, was 0-for-5 for the second straight game and is hitting .316 on the season. The Rangers had five doubles and are just two short of the club record of 357 set in 2006.

Padilla allowed a two-run home run to Garret Anderson in the third, and another run scored in the sixth on a double by Vladimir Guerrero and a single by Brandon Wood. The game was still tied at 3 going into the seventh, but the Angels then took the lead for good.

Sean Rodriguez led off with a walk, went to second on a passed ball, to third on Erick Aybar's single and scored on a wild pitch. Anderson's single made it 5-3.

"The worst thing that could have happened after we tied the game in the sixth was he went out and walked the first batter in the seventh," Washington said.

Padilla had two wild pitches and one hit batter. He is second in the American League in both categories with 15 hit batters and (tied with Tim Wakefield) 12 wild pitches.

Anderson, who had three RBIs for the Angels, has 157 in his career against the Rangers. That's the most by an opponent in a career. Anderson passed George Brett, who had 155.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.