ANAHEIM -- The dramatic moment was in the ninth inning. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton always makes for good theater, especially when he's batting with two on, two outs and his team down by three runs in the ninth.This time he struck out with a flourish, going down swinging on a full-count fastball from closer Ernesto Frieri that preserved the Angels' 7-4 win on Sunday night at the Angel Stadium. "Josh wasn't very good tonight, but I'll take him in that situation every time whether he's struggling or swinging good," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He was in the right situation, he just didn't get it done. He was locked in, he just got beat." Hamilton's strikeout ended the Rangers' last-ditch attempt to not go gently into the good night, but this game was not decided by last-minute dramatics raging against the dying light. Rangers starter Matt Harrison knew that. This one was decided by the Angels getting the leadoff batter on base in seven of eight innings while the Rangers failed to do so until the eighth inning when they were trailing 6-2. That, more than anything, is why Harrison lost for only the second time in his last 11 starts. "Yeah, that was the biggest thing, a lot of pressure at-bats with guys on base in every inning," Harrison said. "They were swinging the bats tonight. I was just trying to minimize the damage and keep it close." But Harrison still gave up one run in the first and two in the second. That gave the Angels a 3-0 lead and the Rangers could never overcome that early deficit against Dan Haren, who was making his first start since being activated off the disabled list with stiffness in his lower back. He allowed two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings. "His split-finger was a little deceptive," outfielder David Murphy said of Haren. "I definitely missed a few fasballs that I should have hit. When you do that, you're going to see the split-finger pitch later in the count. I should have done a better job of putting the bat on the fastball." Said Washington, "You've got to give Haren credit, he kept us off balance. When we got deeper into the game, we started figuring out what to do." That occurred after the sun went down. The game started at 5:07 p.m. PT with bright sunshine and dark shadows dividing the field. But the Rangers scoffed at the idea that had anything to do with their struggles against Haren. "Absolutely ridiculous," first baseman Michael Young said. The Angels had 15 hits and were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The Rangers managed just five hits and were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. "Those guys scratched and clawed and got back with the tying run at the plate," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Give them credit. We helped them a little bit with some walks, but in the end, we got it done. That's all that matters." The Rangers, after losing two of three to the Angels, finished 4-4 on their eight-game trip to start the second half. They return home to Arlington and face the Red Sox on Monday with a five-game lead over the Angels in the American League West. The Athletics are 5 1/2 games back. "We came here to win the series ... it didn't happen," third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "They got one back on us, we'll just keep playing baseball and keep winning series." Harrison ended up going six-plus innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out four. He is now 12-5 with a 3.02 ERA on the season. "There were some frustrating parts to it, but it was just one of those games where I had to battle the whole night," Harrison said. Nelson Cruz hit a two-run home run for the Rangers in the fourth to make it 3-2. Harrison left after giving up a leadoff home run to Bobby Wilson in the seventh, making it 4-2. But the Rangers couldn't keep it close. Alexi Ogando gave up a two-run home run to Albert Pujols in the seventh and, after Young had an RBI single in the top of the eighth, the Angels added one more in the bottom against reliever Mike Adams. "Harrison kept us in the ballgame, we just couldn't shut it down," Washington said. Frieri, with the Angels up by four, did so in the ninth ... just barely. Murphy reached on reliever Scott Downs' throwing error to lead off the inning. Frieri struck out Mike Napoli but walked Yorvit Torrealba and Ian Kinsler to load the bases. Elvis Andrus then lined out to deep center field to drive home one run. That brought up Hamilton. Frieri came at him with seven straight fastballs, all clocked at 95-97 mph. The last one got the job done. "My battle there is with myself," Frieri said. "I was fighting my mechanics. I was a little too quick to the plate. When the count got to 3-2, I just told myself to calm down and focus on the strike zone; Throw it down the middle because I know my ball is going to move a lot. That's what I did. It was a good pitch that moved well and I was able to strike him out." It was dramatic and made for television. But the Rangers let this one get away well before that.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.