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Back-to-back shots in sixth seal rally

Back-to-back shots in sixth seal rally

ARLINGTON -- It was, as Mike Scioscia and Chone Figgins both put it, "a huge momentum swing," serving to lift the soaring Angels to a 5-2 triumph over the Rangers in Monday night's opener of a big American League West series deep in the heart of Texas.

After three pitches to a pair of hitters who'd homered in their previous at-bats produced three outs to end the fifth inning, the Rangers having been subdued by young Sean O'Sullivan in his third Major League start, something stirred in the visitors' dugout at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"You almost have to be there to understand it," Figgins said, "but I've seen it so many times. That double play [ending the bottom of the fifth] completely changed everything. Double plays are killers, man.

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"We came up after that and went to work. You could feel the change in the game."

Vicente Padilla has been around long enough to take a game's temperature. It got hot very quickly for Padilla after David Murphy popped up and Marlon Byrd grounded into a double play started by Figgins and turned beautifully by Maicer Izturis at second base.

Vladimir Guerrero, Padilla's longtime nemesis, laced a single to center leading off the sixth. Sizzling Juan Rivera followed with a two-run bomb to dead center, turning a one-run deficit into a one-run lead.

Rivera's 13th homer of the season was followed three pitches later by Kendry Morales' 13th blast, a matching shot to center. Singles by Izturis -- whose glove was gold all night -- and Mike Napoli ended Padilla's night, and Figgins' sacrifice fly against Jason Jennings ended the scoring for the night.

The Angels' 13th victory in their past 16 games pushed their AL West lead to 2 1/2 games over the Rangers, who have lost 11 of their past 16.

"That was the game right there," said Byrd, who was 3-for-4 but clearly sensed the game had been altered when he grounded to Figgins. "Three great at-bats and one lousy at-bat.

"If I get those runs home, it changes the game. I've got to get those runs in there. If I do, it's 3-1, we have a cushion and who knows what happens. I got my pitch and didn't execute. Just not good hitting on my part."

O'Sullivan was determined to attack the strike zone in its lower reaches and let his defense take care of him.

"I'm trying to get a ground ball, stay out of the big inning there," O'Sullivan said. "We have a great defense, and I wanted to let those guys work for me."

Scioscia thought O'Sullivan made a quality pitch to Byrd, just as he had to Murphy, who'd popped up for the first out. Ian Kinsler's single and a walk to Michael Young had given the Rangers an opportunity to bust it open.

"They've got two guys on and 3-4-5 coming up," Scioscia said, recreating the drama. "Any one of those guys can make it a 5-1 game.

"Murphy put a good swing on it, but Sean had late life [on a fastball] and got a popup. The pitch to Byrd, that wasn't an easy double play. Figgy made the play and Izzy made a good turn.

"That's a huge part of the game. If it gets to 4-1, 5-1, you're going to have to work harder to get back in the game -- and you're going to see different pitchers coming out of the bullpen."

O'Sullivan, 21, outpitched Padilla to claim his second win without a loss.

O'Sullivan worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning before yielding back-to-back homers in the third to Murphy and Byrd.

"I wasn't doing my job to keep us in the game," O'Sullivan said. "I was frustrated because it was putting us deeper in a hole."

Scioscia observed O'Sullivan's demeanor and saw the familiar signs of an extreme competitor.

"Sean was [upset]," Scioscia said, "and he did something about it."

After turning the Rangers away in the fifth and setting the side down in order in the sixth, O'Sullivan departed with five strikeouts and two walks across six impressive innings, keeping his ERA at 3.00.

Before they erupted in the sixth, Morales' two-out RBI double following singles by Guerrero and Rivera got the Angels' offense in gear in the fourth.

They came after Padilla (6-4) with a vengeance in the sixth, O'Sullivan making the pitches, Figgins and Izturis making the play that brought a severe shift of fortunes.

A newly stabilized bullpen was on target. Darren Oliver, Justin Speier and Brian Fuentes delivered a scoreless inning each in relief of O'Sullivan, Fuentes nailing down save No. 22. Nobody in the Majors had that many as the lefty walked off the mound.

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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