Angels leave Texas with seven-game deficit
Hunter, Matsui homer, but Halos drop three of four in series
ARLINGTON -- On the day they added a second ace to the deck, acquiring Dan Haren to twin-up with Jered Weaver, the Angels were dealt an unlucky seven by the Rangers.
That's how many games the Angels trail Texas by in the American League West in the wake of a 6-4 loss to the stacked Rangers and the loaded deck in the hands of manager Ron Washington.
After landing Haren during batting practice on Sunday evening at the cost of Joe Saunders and three prospects, the Angels spotted the Rangers an early lead and departed with their third defeat in four games at Rangers Ballpark.
"This series was about pitching and catching the ball," Washington said. "We did a great job pitching and catching the ball, and they did, too.
"We wanted to win the series, and we did. That's all it was. We played four games and we won three. I'm comfortable with a seven-game lead, but I'm not comfortable with the number of games we have left. We've got to keep playing baseball."
The Rangers have taken six of nine from the Angels and five of six in Texas, but no concession speeches were coming from the three-time reigning division champions.
"We still have a lot of games left against each other," Hideki Matsui said, having powered a two-run homer and slashed a single to spark the Angels' attack. "It's too early to quit now."
Matsui lashed a two-run homer inside the right-field pole in the seventh inning to chase starter Tommy Hunter, who kept his perfect record intact at 8-0. Neftali Feliz nailed down his AL-high 28th save despite yielding his first run to the Angels in the ninth.
"You're frustrated, sure," Angels catcher Jeff Mathis said. "It didn't come out the way we wanted it to, but it's still July. We've got a challenge, and we've got to keep pushing on. It's a long way from over. We've got more than two months left to make up ground, and you don't have to do it all at once.
"We've been inconsistent in all aspects of the game. We've got to put it together -- pitch, hit and play defense -- and make it happen at the same time. They've played really well in the field. They played great defense in this series."
Torii Hunter homered to center leading off the second inning, his 16th, but Texas' Hunter retired 15 of the next 16 batters while the Rangers were shooting off sparks offensively.
Texas had young Trevor Bell, assuming Scott Kazmir's spot in the rotation, out of the game in the fourth inning, seizing a 4-1 lead primarily through the impact of Josh Hamilton.
The Triple Crown candidate tripled home two runs in the first inning and singled home another in the third. An RBI double by Chris Davis ended Bell's night with one away in the fourth.
"That wasn't me," Bell said, having made his first start after 15 relief appearances. "I was getting beat with my secondary pitch, the breaking ball.
"I wasn't getting in good counts with my fastball, and I was too picky. I wasn't going after guys the way I can and should. With Hamilton, I had two strikes and left a breaking ball out over the plate. It was supposed to be in on him, and he went out and hooked it for the triple.
"I've got to be better than that. It was a bummer."
Hamilton was an equal-opportunity basher. Facing reliever Francisco Rodriguez, the center fielder continued to scald the ball in the fifth with his third hit. Moving up on a wild pitch, Hamilton scored on a single by Nelson Cruz, who was cut down trying to take second for the third out.
The Rangers capitalized on a pair of two-out walks by Scot Shields in the sixth when Michael Young drilled an RBI single to center.
"This just puts us in a great spot," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "We definitely rose to the occasion and played as good of baseball this weekend as we have all season. We just need to keep this mentality and play this kind of baseball every single night."
Matsui's 13th homer of the season followed a leadoff walk by Bobby Abreu in the seventh.
After the Rangers' Hunter departed, former Angel right-hander Darren O'Day and Frank Francisco took Texas through the eighth.
Hunter's infield hit and Matsui's line-drive single to right put runners on the corners against Feliz. Alberto Callaspo's fielder's choice scored Hunter, but Feliz finished the job by retiring Howard Kendrick and Juan Rivera.
"They kept doing things on the offensive side, getting key hits with men in scoring position," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I liked the way our guys battled. We got the tying run to the plate in the ninth. We just got too far behind early and couldn't get back in the game."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.