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07/31/10 2:27 AM ET

Inspired by bats, Halos gain on Rangers

Aybar, Rivera help Angels erase early five-run deficit

ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana doesn't have time to watch a lot of prime-time television -- he's busy most nights -- but he's aware of the popular culture.

"This was like the [show] -- `Survivor,'" Santana said, grinning, having watched his Angels rally from a five-run deficit to subdue the Rangers, 9-7, and trim their American League West lead to eight games.

The sight of the Rangers, running as free as an untamed mustang on the prairie in the division race, apparently brought something out in the Angels' slumbering offense.

It came alive, with Juan Rivera and Erick Aybar powering the attack in front of 43,024 at Angel Stadium.

Santana made it through six innings, amazingly so considering he'd yielded six runs and nine hits through three, to move to 10-7 with his most important -- and least artistic -- win of the season.

"I felt like I didn't have anything," he said. "No command, no concentration. I battled and got out with a win. I have to credit my teammates. They did a great job offensively and defensively, and the bullpen, too."

Trevor Bell, recalled Friday from Triple-A Salt Lake, pitched a scoreless seventh inning, and Fernando Rodney kept the Rangers at bay in the eighth. Brian Fuentes took care of the final three outs, in order, for his 19th save.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter finally lost one for Texas, falling to 8-1 by yielding eight earned runs in three-plus innings.

"No game is easy to swallow when you lose," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I thought we played well. We scored seven runs early, but we just couldn't stop them. You have to give those guys credit for battling back, but when you score seven runs, you expect to win the game."

 The Rangers unleashed a three-run first inning, Josh Hamilton doubling home one run and David Murphy driving in a pair with a two-out single. A throwing error by shortstop Aybar on Michael Young's grounder made all three runs unearned.

Texas made it 5-0 in the second when Vladimir Guerrero banged a two-run single through the middle, again with two outs.

"He hit it back through the middle," Santana said of his old friend and teammate. "All fastballs with Vladdy. I don't want to make a mistake with a breaking ball."

The Angels got rolling in their half of the second with Hideki Matsui and Alberto Callaspo getting things started with singles. They trotted home on Rivera's three-run blast to left-center, his 12th of the season.

"Juan got us going," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's been really contributing on the offensive side the last few weeks. He's one of the few guys who has swung the bat well. We're going to need that kind of production from Juan. He's a second-half player. He got us back in the game and got another key hit."

Two batters after Rivera unloaded, Aybar went deep to right, his fourth of the year, and it was a one-run game.

Elvis Andrus' third hit, a two-out single, cashed in Bengie Molina in the third inning, and Nelson Cruz crushed a solo homer, his 15th, to left for a 7-4 lead in the fourth.

"Ervin didn't have his best stuff," Scioscia said, "but it was very important, getting through six innings. Our bullpen's been pitching a lot."

The Angels had a loud response to Cruz's blast, evicting Hunter from the mound with four straight hits in the fourth -- singles by Callaspo, Howard Kendrick and Rivera (his fourth RBI) and a ground-rule double to center by Mike Napoli, driving in the second run.

"I didn't make good pitches," Hunter said. "I missed over the heart of the plate and they took advantage of it. I just didn't throw well and they hit the ball well."

The Angels were equal-opportunity bashers.

"They hit all of them," Hunter said when asked what wasn't working for him. "They hit them all. Changeup got hit -- single up the middle. Curveball -- home run. Fastball -- home run. That's what happens with big league hitters."

Matt Harrison relieved Hunter, and Aybar's sacrifice fly to left brought home Rivera to tie it at 7. Napoli tagged up and reached third, head-first, and this was what Scioscia loves to see.

"I think we ran the bases well tonight," Scioscia said. "A couple of first-to-thirds, hit-and-run, Nap tagging at second and getting to third base."

Facing a drawn-in infield with Napoli at third and one away, Maicer Izturis slammed an RBI single to left for the lead.

"When Izzy hit the ball by Michael Young," Scioscia said, "that would not have been a hit if Nap hadn't gotten to third base. All that pressure is going to lead to runs, and it did tonight."

A four-pitch walk by Aybar in the sixth was followed by Bobby Abreu's drive into the right-field corner, his double scoring the swift Aybar.

"We have a lot of games left with those guys," Abreu said, referring to the nine left to play with the front-runners. "We have to do it ourselves.

"We did a good job tonight with runners in scoring position. Sometimes one inning can change a game. We got aggressive and played our game."

Survival, Angels style.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.