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Angels come up short against Rangers

Angels come up short against Rangers

ARLINGTON -- Unlike an earlier roller that escaped the clutch of Angels shortstop Maicer Izturis, this ground ball rolled precisely into the glove of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus as he was on the move, a step from second base.

Andrus kicked the bag, threw to first to double up Howard Kendrick, and the Angels, not Elvis, left the building with a 3-2 setback that revived the faint hopes of the Rangers, moving them back to within 6 1/2 games of the Angels in the American League West.

Hank Blalock's sixth-inning homer against Jered Weaver stood up as the difference when Frank Francisco escaped a bases-loaded jam with a well-placed fastball to Kendrick to preserve win No. 17 for Scott Feldman.

"It was in on him," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, referring to the full-count fastball with the bases loaded that became the final two outs off Kendrick's bat. "He didn't get extended.

"Give Francisco credit. He came back from a big hole and got a ground ball he needed."

Francisco was clearly relieved to notch save No. 23 as Weaver fell to 15-7 in front of 46,596 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"I was trying to hit my spots the whole time," Francisco said. "I missed a couple of times, then I threw some pitches for strikes. I got into situations that were ugly, but I didn't panic."

After Vladimir Guerrero opened the ninth with a towering drive to right-center that fell into the glove of right fielder Nelson Cruz a few feet short of the wall, Torii Hunter singled to left. A potential double-play grounder by Kendry Morales was booted at first by Chris Davis, leaving two on with one out.

Hunter, off with a burst, stole third with pinch-runner Reggie Willits claiming second in a double steal. Juan Rivera was walked intentionally, and Francisco ran the count to 3-0 against Kendrick before the Angels' hottest hitter gave Elvis and the Rangers reason to sing with his grounder to the left of the young shortstop.

"We had a shot," Hunter said, "but that's baseball."

Weaver, having lost two straight decisions for the first time since May 2-7, was downcast after going six innings to reach 200 for the first time in his career.

"It was just a matter of time before they broke out of their funk," the right-hander said, the Rangers having ended a stretch of 25 consecutive scoreless innings with a freakish run in the third inning.

After Cruz walked leading off and stole second, Davis squibbed a slow roller toward Izturis. Charging and trying to barehand the play, Izturis came up empty-handed, the ball rolling into shallow left field to deliver Cruz.

"The ball just stayed down on Izzy," Weaver said. "He made a great effort, but it went underneath his hand. That's baseball."

The Angels got even in the fourth against Feldman when Izturis walked, took third on Guerrero's single and scored on Hunter's two-out single.

In the fifth, Mike Napoli, who was three for his past 36 as he stepped in against Feldman, unloaded a two-out solo homer to right-center, his 18th of the season.

The blow tied Napoli with Bengie Molina and Lance Parrish for the franchise lead in career homers by a catcher with 61.

The lead didn't last long. Ivan Rodriguez singled with one out in the bottom of the fifth and moved up on Julio Borbon's sacrifice bunt. Andrus' singled off third baseman's Chone Figgins' glove, with Rodriguez scoring as the ball rolled into shallow left.

Blalock lifted a Weaver changeup to center for his 24th homer of the season.

"I thought it was a good pitch," said Weaver, who made it through six innings and has gone at least that many in 23 of his 31 starts. "I probably threw him too many of those [changeups]. He's too smart a hitter to lay off."

Feldman got two outs in the seventh before former Angels pitcher Darren O'Day came on to finish the inning.

"I always said he had good stuff," Hunter said of Feldman, one of the surprises of the season at 17-5 with a 3.62 ERA. "He moved the ball in and out of the strike zone with his cutter, curveball, slider, fastball.

"I thought he had good stuff last year. This year, he just put it all together. He was pounding the strike zone, getting strike one more than any time I've seen him. He was pitching his butt off."

Feldman had a time when he was throwing in the fashion of the man who relieved him, O'Day, the former Angels submariner who got the final out of the seventh.

"He's reinvented himself," Scioscia said of Feldman. "The guy was trying to be a submariner a couple years ago, [with a] low sidearm [delivery]. Now, he's back on top. He has a little cutter that has really helped him. Good movement on his fastball, good breaking ball."

The Rangers, 10-4 against the Angels this season, send young lefty Derek Holland out against John Lackey in Sunday's series finale.

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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