Rangers shell Angels, gain ground

Rangers shell Angels, gain ground

ANAHEIM -- Omar Vizquel had not hit a home run since Sept. 30, 2007. It only seems like it had been that long for Josh Hamilton.

If both were fretting over their power-drought, they can finally relax. Vizquel and Hamilton belted two of the Rangers five home runs that carried them to an 11-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday night.

Vizquel, filling in at second base while Ian Kinsler is sidelined with a strained left hamstring, went 4-for-6 with three RBIs. The home run was his first as a Ranger and the 78th in his 21-year Major League career.

"I was happy I finally got a home run," Vizquel said. "I didn't want to leave this year without hitting one. It's been awhile. It's always good to hit one so you know you can hit one out at the big league level."

Hank Blalock, Taylor Teagarden and Michael Young also went deep as the Rangers won the opener of the three-game series and moved to within 3 1/2 games of the Angels in the American League West. They are one game behind the Red Sox in the Wild Card race.

"It's huge," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "It's momentum. It's huge for us to win the first one after Oakland and losing three of four there. It doesn't get easier with [Jered] Weaver and [John] Lackey, but taking the first one takes a little pressure off and we can come out a little more relaxed."

Scott Feldman, despite almost blowing a four-run lead in the first inning, picked up the victory and is now 11-4 with a 4.01 ERA. Feldman was up 4-0 when he took the mound, but two walks, a single and another walk forced in a run. He was able to escape disaster by striking out Kendy Morales and getting Erick Aybar on a grounder to end the inning.

"That was bad," said Feldman, who did not give up another run until the seventh. By that time he was sitting on a 9-1 lead.

"I was missing down a little bit early in the game," Feldman said. "They see me struggling with my command and they're going to start taking pitches until I prove I can throw strikes. I need to make an adjustment quicker than that."

Hamilton started the power barrage with a three-run home run off of Angels starter Joe Saunders in the first inning. It was his first home run since July 17 against the Twins and his second in his past 34 games going back to May 25. Hamilton, coming into the game, had just five doubles and one home run over 120 previous at-bats, leaving him with a .275 slugging percentage in a 33-game stretch.

"I was joking with [Andruw Jones] on the bench saying it has been awhile and I needed to hit one," Hamilton said. "So yes it feels like it has been awhile."

Blalock followed with his 22nd home run of the season and the back-to-back blasts gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead. Vizquel's RBI single in the second made it 5-1 forcing Saunders from the game. He left with tightness in his left elbow and ended up losing for the first time in five career starts at home against the Rangers. He was 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four career previous starts against them here.

He was also placed on the disabled list after the game.

"I feel like I'm throwing the ball good," Saunders said. "I'm getting behind guys but I'm not getting the breaks. I made one bad pitch tonight, a home run to Blalock, and I made a good pitch to Hamilton and he burned me. So I need to move on and clear my head and [get] some rest."

Vizquel had another RBI single in the third and then the Rangers really let loose in the fifth against reliever Justin Speier. Teagarden led off with a home run and, after an Elvis Andrus groundout, Vizquel and Young each went deep with one out to make it 9-1.

The Rangers still couldn't afford to stop hitting. Feldman left with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, but Jason Jennings ended up giving up an RBI grounder to Howard Kendrick and a three-run home run to Maicer Izturis to cut the lead to 9-5.

Flame-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz ultimately put the brakes on the Angels rally by coming out of the bullpen and retiring four straight hitters. He has now faced 16 Major League hitters and allowed just one hit while striking out eight.

A double by Young, who has a 14-game hitting streak, led to another run in the eighth and the Rangers scratched out an unearned run in the ninth. The Rangers have struggled for much of the season offensively, but not against the Angels. They are hitting .295 with 25 home runs with 69 runs scored in winning eight of ten games against them.

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