Matthews clinches it vs. former club

Angels erase gap in hurry

ARLINGTON -- Few things in baseball are as beneficial as good timing. Gary Matthews Jr. had it on Tuesday. So did the Angels, in what felt like an all-too-brief visit to Texas.

Matthews ended a 3-for-27 slump at the most fortuitous of times, batting with the bases loaded in the sixth inning on Tuesday. Swinging at a 2-0 pitch, he drove a three-run double into the left-center-field gap to break a tie and propel the Angels to a 7-4 victory and a sweep of their short two-game series.

"Numbers go up and down," Matthews said. "That's just how it goes. But it seems like I've been able to get the big hit when I need to. I'll take that tradeoff, as long as we keep winning -- I can keep driving in runs when we need them."

Matthews' moment Tuesday came after the Angels clawed their way back from an early four-run deficit. A two-run homer by Casey Kotchman and an RBI single by Chone Figgins pulled them within 4-3 in the fourth, and Garret Anderson's run-scoring single in the fifth drew them even.

Perhaps the key hit of the game wasn't even a hit. Maicer Izturis lined a ball off the shin of Rangers starter Kevin Millwood in the second inning. The ball glanced straight to first baseman Ben Broussard for an easy out, but pain from the bruise became so severe that Millwood could not continue past the fifth inning. That got the Angels into the soft underbelly of the Texas bullpen.

Right-handed reliever Josh Rupe replaced the Rangers' ace to start the sixth, and found immediate trouble. A leadoff walk to Izturis, a one-out single by Erick Aybar and an intentional walk to Figgins loaded the bases for Matthews. Rupe continued to struggle, falling behind Matthews, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia had no qualms letting his struggling right fielder swing away.

"If it had gotten to 3-0, we might have had him look at one," Scioscia said. "But not 2-0. That's too good a hitting count. We know Gary is going to be there for us and that he's going to hit for us."

Matthews appreciated his manager's confidence, but admitted that his recent slide had been weighing on him.

"Any player that says he ignores the numbers, it's a flat-out lie," Matthews said. "When you're going through a tough time, you know it, and it wears on you. But I also try to look at the positives."

For Matthews, that meant remembering that he drove in two runs with his only hit on Sunday in Seattle and that he had already drawn three walks in the Texas series, an indication his batting eye was sharpening.

Rupe tried to put a fastball on the outside corner, but left it within reach, and Matthews drove it deep into the gap between outfielders David Murphy and Josh Hamilton. Izturis, Aybar and Figgins all raced home, and the Rangers were on their way to a fifth consecutive loss.

Matthews hinted at some hurt feelings after being booed during the series by Texas fans. He played here three years, including his All-Star season of 2006, before defecting to the division-rival Angels as a free agent that November.

"Yeah, that seemed a little odd," he said. "I played well here, and I played hard for these people. I don't know what to make of it. But it was ... really odd."

Still, the displeasure directed toward Matthews was nothing like the boos Rangers fans have begun to shower on their own team. The Rangers' five consecutive home losses have featured all manner of sloppy play, mental lapses and physical errors.

Tuesday's included catcher Adam Melhuse throwing to an uncovered base as Figgins stole second in the third, and Murphy hitting a seventh-inning double only to be tagged out when he kept running before noticing lead runner Marlon Byrd had stopped at third base.

"I think their baserunning mistake was big that inning," Scioscia said, "but those guys did a lot right on the field. They made us earn it. I don't think they gave us anything."

Rangers manager Ron Washington wasn't nearly so charitable. He felt it necessary to apologize for his team's performances in series sweeps by the Blue Jays and Angels.

"We played five bad games," Washington said. "Whatever type of mistake that could be made, we've made. We do apologize to the fans for that, but it will get better."

With the weather at one of the summer's hot spots unseasonably cool and pleasant (68 degrees), and with the home team playing so poorly in virtually every facet of the game, perhaps the Angels' only regret was that this stay was limited to only two games.

The Rangers proved quite a tonic after the Angels lost two of three in Seattle. Even Figgins was able to celebrate after getting two consecutive singles against the hobbled Millwood, ending an 0-for-22 career drought against the pitcher.

"It was frustrating," admitted Figgins, who thrust his arms in the air at first base and grinned after his third-inning single.

About the only disappointment for the Angels was the shaky performance of starting pitcher Dustin Moseley. The converted reliever gave up four runs on seven hits and was pulled after he was unable to retire the Rangers' leadoff hitter in the fifth. Moseley is 1-1 with a 7.80 ERA after three starts in place of the injured John Lackey.

"There's more in there," Scioscia said. "Dustin has the ability to come out with the consistency he showed for his first five innings last time [April 9 against Cleveland] and get on a roll."

Moseley sounded equally disappointed after walking five and striking out one in his four-inning stint.

"This is not the way I expected myself to do," he said. "I'm better than the three starts I've had. There's no excuse for it. It's just a lack of focus at times. ... I don't throw 95 mph, so I need to have strike one. I've got to get back to attacking the hitters."

Darren Oliver (1-0), the second of five Angels pitchers, got the win in relief. Closer Francisco Rodriguez walked two in the ninth inning, but also struck out two to nail down his fifth save in six chances.

Ken Daley is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.