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TEX@LAA: Soto's two-run blast adds some insurance

ANAHEIM -- No Josh Hamilton. No Adrian Beltre. No worries.

Missing their big guns, the Rangers were faced with the challenge on Wednesday night of replacing 75 home runs and 216 RBIs. They didn't bat an eye.

Knocking out former teammate C.J. Wilson in the third inning, the Rangers beat the Angels, 6-2, behind Derek Holland. The victory lifted Texas to a four-game lead over the A's, beaten again by the Tigers, and a 7 1/2-game advantage over the Angels in the American League West.

"I think it's our attitude, our commitment to each other," Rangers manager Ron Washington said when asked about his team's resilience. "We believe whatever nine we put out there can compete.

"It all centers on pitching. Holland wanted to give us seven [innings] and did. Once again, as we go down the stretch, Derek is getting stronger. We never doubted he would bounce back."

Three third-inning runs against Wilson, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings, were tenaciously protected by Holland (11-6) in outdueling his former rotation mate.

"You've seen their lineup, right?" Wilson said. "They have a lot of good hitters. It's not just two guys that drive their lineup. Everybody could score runs on their team and everyone can go deep, pretty much. You never take anything for granted in the Major Leagues, whether you're playing a last-place team or a first-place team. Everybody's a Major League player, so you just kind of focus on your stuff."

On the disabled list for a month, from June 7 to July 7, with shoulder fatigue, Holland is throwing bullets again in good locations.

"I feel he's matured as a pitcher," said Geovany Soto, the former Cubs catcher gaining familiarity with the Rangers' staff. "I feel like he's learned how to pitch instead of being a thrower. He's moving his fastball in and out and his offspeed stuff is there when it's called."

Holland allowed two runs on six hits and a walk, striking out four in seven innings. The lefty has found the right stuff in his past four starts, yielding just seven earned runs across 29 innings, with six walks and 28 strikeouts.

Holland's game plan was to throw quality strikes and keep his defense involved.

"That's a great ballclub," Holland said of the Angels. "One through nine, they've got a solid lineup. There's not an easy out. They battled. At the same time, I thought I did a good job controlling them, trying to slow them down."

The power arrived for Texas in the eighth inning with Soto's two-run homer against Jordan Walden. Timely hitting throughout the lineup, compensating for the absence of Hamilton and Beltre, had the Rangers in control when Soto launched his missile to center.

Michael Young and Nelson Cruz inherited the third and fourth spots in the order from Hamilton and Beltre and delivered handsomely. Each produced a double and single and drove in a run, with Young scoring twice.

Alberto Callaspo's two-run homer in the fifth inning cut the deficit to one, but a superb play by center fielder Craig Gentry helped Holland survive a troublesome sixth.

With one out, Albert Pujols hit a shot to right-center. Gentry raced over and gloved it, unloading a perfect throw to Elvis Andrus at second to erase Pujols. Gentry's second assist of the game looked even bigger when Torii Hunter followed with a ground-rule double. Holland struck out Howie Kendrick to finish the inning.

"Not having two key guys," Holland said, "Craig stepped up big time in center and Michael played a great game at third base."

Wilson, who dropped to 12-10 with the loss, was searching for his command from the start. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning before escaping by retiring Mike Napoli. Serving as designated hitter, Napoli would get even next time around.

Ian Kinsler led off the third with an infield single and scored when Andrus unloaded a drive off the wall in center for a standup triple. Young -- extending his hitting streak to eight games -- laced a double to right-center to cash in Andrus.

With two down, Napoli stroked a line-drive double into the left-field corner, ending Wilson's night. Napoli continues to torment his former club. He has four homers and 10 RBIs against the Angels in 14 games this season, and 10 homers, 19 RBIs vs. the Angels in his two seasons with Texas, spanning 30 games.

Holland pitched out of trouble in the first, standing Mike Trout at third after a leadoff single, and sailed into the fifth. Kendrick led off with a double to right, and Callaspo found the seats in the left-field corner to end an eight-pitch duel.

Jerome Williams, picking up for Wilson, silenced the Rangers for 4 1/3 innings. Facing young Garrett Richards in the eighth, Young reached on an infield single -- his 13th hit in his past 27 at-bats -- and scored when Cruz crashed a double off the right-field wall.

After walking Napoli, Richards gave way to another power-armed right-hander in Walden. The big Texan watched Soto launch his fourth homer in 37 games with the Rangers and 10th of the season, six as a Cub.

"I wasn't thinking homer -- I was thinking about a double down the line, maybe in the gap, to score [pinch-runner Leonys] Martin," Soto said. "A guy like Walden, throwing 100 [mph], upper 90s, he's tough. I got in a good count, 2-0, and he supplied the power. I just wanted to make solid contact."

Both Hamilton (vision issues) and Beltre (abdominal discomfort) were waiting on the evaluation of MRIs to determine the extent of their ailments. It was not known Wednesday night when they'd return to the lineup.

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