The Angels scored five runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and had two runners on base before C.J. Wilson, facing the potential go-ahead run, got Howard Kendrick on a grounder to second baseman Ian Kinsler to end the game.
"That was a big one," Wilson said after earning his first save of the season. "Every game against a division opponent is big, but we had to win that game -- absolutely had to -- after we had such a big lead."
By holding on, the Rangers have won five straight games and, at 21-14, are now 2 1/2 games ahead of the Angels in the American League West. The Rangers have also won 15 of their last 20 games to move seven games over .500 for the first time since June 19, 2005. The 21-14 mark is also tied for the third best record after 35 games in club history.
"All I know is we won the ballgame and we're very happy," Washington said.
Maybe, but the Rangers had a hard time celebrating this one in the clubhouse, despite some prodigious offensive feats that included a pair of home runs by Kinsler and a three-RBI night from both Hamilton and Andruw Jones.
"They battled their tails off at the end," Kinsler said. "It was a good win, except for the last out of the game. It took us a while, but we'll take it. We need to come back a little more intense tomorrow so we don't let the momentum they gained in the ninth inning carry over."
Kevin Millwood went six innings to get the victory and Derek Holland, who suffered from a migraine headache before the game, came within one out of his first Major League save. Holland, who entered the game in the seventh, retired the first two batters in the ninth before the Angels came storming back with five runs against both him and Darren O'Day.
"They're a good team," Hamilton said," They're not going to quit, just like we won't quit. You don't want to give them hope and intensity for tomorrow so we have to be on top of our game so we don't let that happen."
Said Angels DH Mike Napoli, who had a single in the inning, "I really thought we were going to do it. After we fought back like that, I was kind of upset we didn't pull it off."
Hamilton unloaded in the eighth off of Angels reliever Shane Loux by crushing a pitch into the second deck of the Home Run Porch. The official measurement was 460 feet, making it the third longest home run in the history of the ballpark in Arlington. Paul Sorrento of Tampa Bay hit one 491 feet in 1999 and Jose Canseco hit one 480 feet for the Rangers in 1994.
Despite the distance, Hamilton said he didn't get all of it.
"I hit it toward the label a little bit," Hamilton said. "It vibrated in my hands. But it was one of the easiest swings I've had."
The Rangers won this one because of their offense early and their defense all night. The Rangers scored seven off Angels starter Joe Saunders, who entered the game fifth in the American League with a 2.66 ERA.
But the Rangers scored seven off him in 5 1/3 innings, including two home runs from Kinsler and a two-run home run by Jones. The Rangers led 6-0 going into the fifth inning and 7-2 when Saunders left after allowing Kinsler's second home run with one out in the sixth.
Saunders is now 0-4 with a 10.29 ERA in four career starts in Arlington, even though he is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four starts against the Rangers in Anaheim.
"It's killing me," Saunders said. "I'm not pitching well here, and I've got to figure out a way to get them out. Every pitcher has a park that doesn't really agree with them, and I have to dig deep here, do whatever it takes."
Millwood, who entered the game seventh in the league in ERA, allowed just two runs in six innings despite giving up nine hits and two walks. When it was over, Rangers pitchers had allowed 22 base runners on 16 hits and six walks, but avoided complete disaster, because the Rangers turned three double plays behind them. Holland also picked off a runner in the seventh inning and Hamilton threw out Kendrick trying to score from second on a single in the fifth.
"Those double plays were huge," Washington said. "They saved runs. That's what defense does, saves runs."
The Rangers were saved from disaster on Friday night.