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Rangers on wrong end of historic win

Rangers on wrong end of big win

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers spent two days in Anaheim having a jolly good time pounding Angels pitching and establishing a few notable offensive milestones.

On the last day, though, Texas received a harsh and resounding reminder why the Angels are going to the playoffs with 100 victories and the Rangers are going back to Texas.

This one came down to Angels left-hander Joe Saunders throwing six scoreless innings and Rangers starter Kevin Millwood giving up five runs -- four earned -- in six innings. This game, and the American League West Division, came down to starting pitching, and the Rangers closed out their season with a 7-0 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Rangers end their season with a 79-83 record, in second place in the division and 21 games behind the Angels.

"Looking back at all the adversity, all the injuries, all the player changes and all the moves we made, I thought my players hung in their well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They fought hard. There wasn't a day that went by where they didn't leave everything they had on the field. I'm very proud of them. There's not much else I can say. We fought hard every single day."

The Rangers met as a team before the game. Much was said about getting after it in the offseason, being ready to go in Spring Training and getting off to a good start next season. The Rangers never really did recover from a 7-16 start in April.

"We talked about being ready to go right out of the gate," shortstop Michael Young said. "We had stretches where we played really good baseball. Unfortunately, we just weren't good enough to make the playoffs. But we've got to keep working hard. We have a lot of guys in here that take a lot of pride in what they do."

Added Josh Hamilton: "There were a lot of good things that happened this year, and a lot of bad. But I enjoyed playing with a team that never gives up and never stops fighting. It was a good experience."

But the Rangers, for all the talk, understand the biggest difference between them and the Angels is starting pitching. The Angels' starters were 73-40 with a 4.13 ERA in 1,012 innings. Rangers starters were 52-53 with a 5.51 ERA in 869 1/3 innings.

"Without a doubt, the rotation has to pitch better," Millwood said. "We know that, everybody knows that. It's no secret."

Millwood was hoping to finish the season on a positive note, but that didn't happen. He gave up a run-scoring double to Mike Napoli in the second and a home run to Napoli in the fifth. The Angels tacked on three more in the sixth, and Millwood was denied a 10th win.

"It was an up-and-down season for him," Washington said. "Injuries played a big part. There were times when he was outstanding and times when he showed the competitor that he is. I don't think he was awful today, he just got some pitches up in some situations. If we can get him in the best shape he can be and if he can stay healthy, I know he can improve on this year."

Millwood finished the season 9-10, tying rookie Matt Harrison for the second-most wins on the staff. Vicente Padilla led with 14. The Angels had five starters finish with at least 10 victories. The biggest milestone on the Rangers' staff was overworked reliever Jamey Wright pitched in his 75th game Sunday, the most by a right-handed reliever in club history.

There were a few individual offensive accomplishments. Milton Bradley went 0-for-3 on Sunday and finished with a .321 batting average. Bradley also finished with a .436 on-base percentage to lead the league and post the highest percentage in club history.

Hamilton finished the season with 130 RBIs, the most in the AL. But he still can't claim the RBI title. Justin Morneau has 129 for the Twins, and he may get one more game if they end up in a playoff with the White Sox.

"I'm not worried about it," Hamilton said. "My season is over with. I had a good one, and I felt it could have been better. There are a lot of things I can improve on, and I'm going to come to Spring Training and work extra hard to do just that."

The offseason has begun.

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

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