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Kazmir, Angels tormented by Vlad's bat

Kazmir, Angels tormented by Vlad's bat

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ANAHEIM -- Michael Young, third baseman and Rangers leader, was asked about Vladimir Guerrero's impact deep in the heart of Texas.

"With Vladdy," Young said, "we basically struck gold. That's what Vladdy's been -- pure gold."

This was before Guerrero rocked his former team on Wednesday night with a pair of homers and four hits, powering the Rangers to a 6-4 decision over the Angels in front of 41,867 at Angel Stadium.

"No doubt Vlad was swinging it tonight," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's pretty obvious we haven't been doing a good job in trying to contain him. He's as dangerous as any hitter in the game right now."

Guerrero's one-man show in a superlative comeback season lifted Texas back ahead of the three-time reigning champions in the American League West by 4 1/2 games.

Guerrero, who went deep in the fourth and eighth innings, warmed up with a single in his first at-bat against Scott Kazmir before unloading the heavy artillery.

Following a hit batsman (Elvis Andrus on a 1-2 pitch), Young's double and a walk to Ian Kinsler, Guerrero crushed Kazmir's 2-0 changeup over the 400 sign in center field for his seventh career slam in the fourth.

"I started him with two fastballs, inside and away," Kazmir said. "I'd thrown him a changeup in his first at-bat, and I think he was sitting on it. It was a little down, but that's Vlad. He can hit anything."

Guerrero, batting .339 after matching his career high with four hits and slugging at a .580 clip, shook his head and said he wasn't focused on the changeup, "Just something I could hit. It felt good."

This blow erased a lead the Angels had constructed against right-hander Omar Beltre in his Major League debut with Erick Aybar's first-inning leadoff homer and Reggie Willits' two-run single in the second.

Willits' bouncer through the middle came after Mike Napoli singled, Kevin Frandsen was hit by a pitch and Bobby Wilson executed a bunt.

Even with their 3-0 lead, the Angels had begun stranding runners, leaving men aboard in each of the first six innings, nine altogether. They were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

"We definitely had some opportunities to get back in the game," Scioscia said. "They've got some guys who can throw the ball well. We couldn't get that hit with guys in scoring position."

The Rangers padded their lead in the fifth on Kinsler's RBI single, ending Kazmir's night after 4 2/3 innings, having yielded five earned runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts.

"I felt like I had my old slider in the bullpen and my changeup was good," Kazmir said, "but I didn't carry them over into the game. You can't basically throw one pitch [the fastball] and show another [changeup] and expect to get it done."

Guerrero doubled after Sean O'Sullivan replaced Kazmir, leaving him a triple shy of a cycle. The big right-hander retired Nelson Cruz to leave the bases loaded, but the Rangers -- and Vladdy -- were not done.

"Scott didn't have everything working for him," Scioscia said. "As his fastball command got shaky, he was getting behind hitters. He didn't have many tools in his box."

In the eighth, Guerrero launched Francisco Rodriguez's first-pitch slider over the wall in left-center, giving him 18 homers for the season and three in his first two games back at Angel Stadium since departing via free agency.

"Vladdy looks good," Torii Hunter, his former teammate, said. "He looks slim, too. He looks like he's 21."

Wilson's leadoff double in the sixth against Dustin Nippert, a wild pitch and Aybar's infield out had made it a one-run game. But Howard Kendrick and Bobby Abreu were left in scoring position after singles and a double steal when Hunter -- their RBI leader with 53 -- sent a soft liner back to Nippert.

With three innings of relief, the right-hander moved to 3-3 with the victory, Kazmir falling to 7-7 with the loss.

Frank Francisco and Neftali Feliz, two of the big arms in the deep Texas bullpen, finished the job with a scoreless inning apiece.

"With Francisco and Feliz, they've got some power arms at the back end," Scioscia said.

With Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, Cruz and Young combining for 57 homers, the Rangers have power bats throughout their lineup.

"They're a deeper club, in a lot of different areas," Scioscia said.

They're also a more dangerous club, largely because of that gold mine they struck when they lured Guerrero to Texas as a free agent after six memorable seasons in Anaheim.

Lyle Spencer 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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