The Angels produced their largest inning of the season Tuesday night, then proceeded to cough up a big lead in an 8-7 loss to Texas as the Rangers won both contests of a two-game set.
The Angels fell 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Rangers in the division. The AL West rivals won't play each other again until June 29 back at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
It's too early to tell what this series means. The Rangers took three out of four games in the opening series between the two teams in Texas last year. And the Angels ended up winning the division by 10 games over the second-place Rangers.
But the Angels did walk away impressed by the current division leaders.
"Last year is last year," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "They're a different ballclub. They're more mature. Texas is a good team. They have great arms. It's going to be a battle all year." The Angels scored five runs in the fourth inning -- their biggest uprising on the season (they were the only team in baseball to not score more than four runs in an inning coming into Tuesday's game). The Angels eventually had a 7-3 lead halfway through the game with their best pitcher, Jered Weaver, on the mound. The Angels had done it against Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, who brought an AL-best 1.52 ERA into the game.
But Weaver struggled with his fastball command the entire start, and it cost him in the bottom of the fifth. He sandwiched two outs around a single by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, then got stung by Ian Kinsler, who pulled a fastball for a two-run home run down the left-field line to trim the Angels' lead to 7-5.
"The guy is one of the best in the business," Kinsler said. "We were just trying to get guys on base and get the big hits. Tonight, we were able to get some big hits off him."
Weaver gave up two more singles after Kinsler's homer and was pulled one out shy of getting the chance at his fifth victory of the season. Weaver also gave up home runs in the third inning to Michael Young and in the fourth to former Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero.
"I feel terrible," Weaver said. "The guys picked me up against a guy having a great start to the season. If you want to put the blame somewhere, put it on me." Reliever Trevor Bell came in and immediately gave up the lead. Nelson Cruz's two-out, two-run double tied the game at 7. Bell gave up the lead in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Young.
The Angels couldn't do anything against the Rangers' bullpen, which put up 4 2/3 innings of shutout relief. Erick Aybar had the only hit after the fifth inning, a two-out single in the sixth. Seven of the Angels' last 13 batters struck out, and the last 10 went down in order.
They'll have to find a solution for Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, who had two strikeouts in the ninth with six fastballs clocked at 99 mph or faster.
"He's got a terrific fastball and gets away with misses because of his velocity," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's definitely a prototypical power closer."
The Angels produced their season's biggest inning in the top of the fourth with the long ball. After Howard Kendrick collected the Angels' first hit with a sharp single up the middle, and Bobby Abreu singled, Hunter crushed a home run into the visitors' bullpen in left field for a 3-2 lead. Kendry Morales followed with a base hit, and after Hideki Matsui struck out, Juan Rivera drilled a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats for a 5-2 lead.
The Angels knocked Wilson out of the game in the fifth inning. The struggling Aybar beat out an infield single, and after Kendrick struck out, Abreu hit a line drive up the left-center-field alley for an RBI double. Morales later singled in a run off Rangers reliever Dustin Nippert for a 7-3 lead.
It was a lead the Angels couldn't hold. Scioscia talked after the game about how his team is hot and cold and it's keeping them from finding a consistent rhythm. The Angels have spent 32 combined days in third or fourth place, but Scioscia said it's still way too early to panic.
"I don't care about the standings," Scioscia said. "We've got a lot of stuff to clean up. We take a couple of steps forward, and then take one backward."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less