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Andruw's three homers put Texas in first

Andruw's three homers put Texas in first

ANAHEIM -- Rangers manager Ron Washington went into detail before the game on why he wants Andruw Jones in the lineup even against right-hander pitchers.

Washington said Jones is a "presence." He said that Jones "any minute he can hurt you." He also cited Jones' vast experience in pennant races during his 11 years with the Atlanta Braves.

Jones was all of that on Wednesday night, completing the former Dodgers' triumphant return to Southern California by hitting three home runs and leading the Rangers to an 8-1 victory over the Anaheim.

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"Andruw put us on his back, and everybody just followed," Washington said after his team finished taking two of three from the Angels.

"That's what Andruw is capable of," third baseman Michael Young said. "That's not the first time he's shown power; he's been doing it his whole career. There aren't many guys in the game who have as much natural power as Andruw."

Jones, making a convincing argument on why he should be the Rangers' everyday designated hitter, became the 12th player in Rangers history to hit three home runs in a game. It's been done 15 times total, including three times by Juan Gonzalez and twice by Al Oliver. Brad Wilkerson was the last to do it on July 3, 2007, against the Angels in Arlington.

Jones had already done it once himself on Sept. 25, 2002, while with the Atlanta Braves against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Taylor Teagarden and Marlon Byrd also hit home runs on Wednesday to support the pitching of Vicente Padilla, and the Rangers now have a one-game lead over the Angels in the American League West.

"It was just good to go out and perform well and get a win," Jones said. "Everybody produced tonight. It's about team, not just one individual person. It's about team and beating a team that you're competing against."

Jones also hit a three-run home run on Tuesday night, giving him four in three games in his first trip to Southern California since his disastrous 2008 season with the Dodgers. That's one more home run that he hit in 75 games with L.A. last year.

Jones insisted there was no motivation in performing well in Southern California after what happened last year, even though he was greeted with more than a few boos at Angel Stadium this week.

"No, none at all," Jones said. "Just because I had one bad year ... things just happen. I've been looking to put everything behind me. I've been working hard on things, the Rangers gave me an opportunity, and I've been lucky to take advantage of it."

Jones barely made the team out of Spring Training and began the season as the fifth outfielder and part-time designated hitter. Now he is hitting .250 with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs in 46 games and 160 at-bats. He hit .158 with 14 RBIs in 209 at-bats for the Dodgers last season.

"He's having a terrific season for them," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's obviously much more comfortable in the batter's box than we saw him last year with the Dodgers."

Jones is hitting .254 with nine home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 16 games. With Chris Davis in the Minor Leagues and Hank Blalock at first base, the path is clear for Jones to play regularly at designated hitter if he keeps this up.

"You're talking about a guy who was on his way to being a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Young said. "Andruw has a lot left in the tank. He works hard, has a good idea of what he's doing at the plate and has got monster power. You don't expect a guy to have a three-homer night, but it's not a shock."

Jones, batting in the cleanup spot, went deep on the first pitch he saw on Wednesday night. He came up with a runner on first and two outs in the first inning and jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Ervin Santana, driving it over the left-center-field wall for a two-run home run. His second home run came off a 1-2 fastball from Santana with the bases empty in the third inning, this one giving the Rangers a 4-0 lead.

"When you're hot like that, no matter what you throw, he's going to hit it," Santana said. "They were fastballs, good pitches. He just hit the ball very good tonight."

Santana was gone when Jones came to bat in the fifth. Instead, reliever Rich Thompson was on the mound with the Rangers leading, 5-1. Thompson couldn't get a fastball by Jones either. He threw a 93-mph fastball on a 2-2 pitch, and Jones belted it on a line to deep left field. The ball never did gain much altitude, but it was hit hard enough and high enough to clear the left-field wall for a third time.

"They made mistakes, and I took advantage of them," Jones said. "I was just looking for pitches over the plate. What they were trying to do, everything was either hard or soft. Nothing in between. I was patient enough to put good wood on the ball."

That gave Jones two shots to become the 16th player in Major League history to hit four home runs in a game. But he popped out against reliever Kevin Jepsen in the sixth and struck out against Jason Bulger in the ninth.

"I was thinking about it," Jones admitted. "I tried. I just couldn't get it done."

He had already done enough.

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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