Rally shot by Rivera doesn't yield win
Slugger's three-run homer goes for naught after walk-off
ARLINGTON -- The Angels elected to take their chances with Hank Blalock -- a man with 142 Major League home runs as he stepped in -- rather than a rookie named Julio Borbon with a total of five big league at-bats.
A mistake of a pitch by Justin Speier traveled more than 400 feet to center field, and young Borbon celebrated a 9-7 triumph with Blalock and the rest of the Rangers on Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Blalock launched his second homer of the night, a two-run shot, onto the embankment beyond center field, enabling the Rangers to take the series and shave the Angels' American League West lead to a half-game.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, via pitching coach Mike Butcher, entrusted Justin Speier with making a pitch in a good location that Blalock -- with one hit in seven career at-bats against the veteran reliever -- could not hammer.
"I threw a little backdoor slider," Speier said. "That was the right pitch. I just made a mistake, and he took advantage of it. I threw the same pitch the other night [Monday] and he swung through it. Tonight, he got me."
It took Juan Rivera's dramatic three-run homer to right-center in the top of the ninth to temporarily rescue the Angels, who got walks from Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter with two outs against Frank Francisco to put Rivera in a position to tie it with his 14th homer.
After Michael Young singled leading off the bottom of the ninth and was bunted to second, Butcher went to the mound to carry a message from Scioscia in a chat with Speier.
"Mike went out to see how Justin felt and to get a game plan," Scioscia said. "We had a couple of options. If we were going after Blalock, what we were going to do [was one option]. If we got behind him, what we were going to do [was another option].
"He made a mistake with the first pitch, and that was it."
Scioscia said the idea of walking Blalock intentionally to get to Borbon, "Weighed a lot -- of course we thought of that. If Justin didn't feel good about where he was, what he was going to throw ... [but] Justin felt good going after him.
"Maybe it was a mistake [pitch] the next kid would have hit, too."
Blalock, who'd homered in the fourth inning against Jered Weaver and doubled in the five-run sixth, didn't seem all that surprised the Angels went after him, given his .245 batting average and .290 on-base percentage.
"The way I've been pitched to all year, I have a tendency to chase," Blalock said. "I just wanted to make sure I got something good to hit and it ended up being the first pitch."
The Angels had an uncommonly bad night on the basepaths, costing them scoring opportunities in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.
Before the walks to Abreu and Hunter, Chone Figgins had doubled to right but stumbled rounding second and fell into a rundown, tagged out by Young.
"I never do that," Figgins said, shaking his head. "My spikes got caught. I got too far out there [toward third] and couldn't turn around. I was hoping the relay was too high, but Michael Young, the athlete he is, got up and caught it."
The Rangers lead the season series, 5-1, but in one of those quirks of the schedule, they'll be making their first trip to Orange County next week.
"They're owning us now," Hunter said. "They're five out of six. The numbers say it.
"Hopefully, it's a one-day thing, and it won't be recurring. It was ugly. We all made mistakes -- everybody."
With the temperature in the high 90s, it was Weaver vs. Kevin Millwood in what shaped up as an old-fashioned shootout between two of the AL's premier right-handers this season. Neither pitcher was dominant. Each lasted 6 1/3 innings, Weaver yielding seven earned runs, Millwood four.
"I felt good, like I made some good pitches," Weaver said. "I left a couple of pitches up -- the home run and in the sixth. It was one of those games we didn't do some things right.
"I feel like we gave that game away. Obviously, Juan coming up with the big three-run homer gave us a chance. But you can't be giving guys extra outs."
After enduring a dismal June, right up to its final day when they produced nine runs, the Rangers appeared to rediscover their offensive mojo at the tail end of the series.
The Rangers seized the lead in the fourth when Blalock hit a solo shot, his 15th, and added a run when Nelson Cruz singled, stole second and scored on Chris Davis' two-out single.
The Angels cut the deficit in half in the sixth on singles by Vladimir Guerrero (who had three hits) and Rivera, and Maicer Izturis' sacrifice fly.
The Rangers erupted for five runs in the sixth, all five charged to Weaver. His frustration peaked when Jarrod Saltalamacchia reached on a wild pitch while striking out.
After Weaver departed, having given up three hits and a walk in the inning, Kevin Jepsen yielded RBI singles to Young and David Murphy.
The Angels knocked Millwood out of the game in the seventh. Erick Aybar singled with one out and scored on Figgins' triple to the right-center gap. After Abreu walked, Hunter crashed a two-run double to right center.
Hunter stole third but was stranded, as former Angels reliever Darren O'Day slammed the door by retiring Rivera, who led the AL in RBIs in June with 24.
Rivera had another roundhouse coming -- but so did Blalock, who had the last word at the Angels' expense.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.