10/03/10 7:53 PM ET
Haren, Matsui lead Angels past Rangers
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
In the season finale, Matsui clubbed a two-run homer, his 21st of the season, against Colby Lewis on Sunday to hand the Angels an early lead on their way to a 6-2 decision over the American League West champion Rangers. Matsui also singled in his final at-bat before leaving for a pinch-runner.
"Hideki came on like gangbusters the last 100 at-bats or so," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, his team having finished sub-.500 (80-82) for the first time since 2003.
"It was definitely good to see Hideki get a hold of one. We needed it."
The Rangers brought four regulars off the field to individual ovations during the top of the sixth inning in front of 45,446 at Rangers Ballpark, and manager Ron Washington batted for DH Vladimir Guerrero for another ovation in the sixth.
Finally settling in on the mound in the sixth after the ovations, Dustin Nippert, replacing starter Lewis, was rocked for a solo homer by Peter Bourjos, his sixth of the season. The Angels added three insurance runs in the ninth, with Mark Trumbo delivering two with his first Major League hit, a line-drive single to center against Mark Lowe.
The win went to Dan Haren with support from relievers Rich Thompson, Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden.
Haren said he was initially confused by Texas' celebration, adding that he felt it backfired with Nippert grooving a pitch to Bourjos.
"It was a little weird," Haren said. "The thing is, I don't know the history, if we've done something like that in the past. It seemed a little out of the ordinary. I feel bad for their pitcher. He had to stand out there for five minutes and give up a home run. He got hung with the loss.
"The first time they did it, it took me by surprise. It's not like they were showing us up. If there's a message they're sending ... it's been the Angels' division for quite a few years. They got us this year. We'll see what happens next year. I like our chances."
Haren made it through six innings to even his season record at 12-12. He finished brilliantly with a 1.70 ERA over his final 53 innings. This was a return to the form he showed when he was a three-time All-Star and one of the game's elite starters, after struggling in his final half-season in Arizona before the July swap.
"It's been a weird year for me," Haren said. "I got off to a decent start, and was hit around for quite some time. I came over here, a fresh start, and it's been great. Obviously, I would have liked for us to finish better, but from a personal standpoint, I'm glad I threw the ball well."
Scioscia was delighted with Haren's overall performance after he arrived in exchange for Joe Saunders and three pitching prospects.
"Dan has really pitched good baseball for us," Scioscia said. "His record certainly isn't reflective of how well he's pitched. He's pitched deep in games, and that's something hopefully we're going to see next year."
Scioscia expressed no disenchantment with the Rangers' form of celebrating their first AL West title since 1999.
"Some guys thought it was maybe a little over the top," Scioscia said. "I had no problem with it. It was their party; they certainly deserved to celebrate however they want and send themselves off into the playoffs."
Torii Hunter, who led the Angels in almost every important offensive category, voiced the view that the Rangers earned the right to act as they pleased.
"They can do what they want in their stadium," Hunter said. "It's for their fans. What can you do about it? Cry? It doesn't matter if I like it or not. This is their stadium and they can do what they want. I would never do that. They won it. They're the champs."
After Matsui's two-run blast, the Rangers drew even against Haren in the fifth inning with a pair of runs on RBI singles by Bengie Molina and Julio Borbon.
Haren quelled the disturbance and worked one more inning, departing having yielded two earned runs on seven hits while striking out three. He established career highs in starts with 35 and in innings pitched with 235. The three-time All-Star finished with 216 strikeouts.
Matsui, unsigned for next season, has consistently expressed a desire to return to the Angels, but he does not know how it will unfold. He finished his debut season with the Angels with a flourish. From Aug. 14, when he found his rhythm and timing, to the finale, Matsui batted .371 with seven homers and 27 RBIs.
Matsui, with 84 RBIs, finished second among the Angels to Hunter, who produced 90 RBIs in 91 more at-bats.
Lewis, tuning up for a postseason assignment against the Rays in the American League Division Series, yielded only one hit, the Matsui blast, across five innings. Bobby Abreu had walked and stolen second before Matsui unloaded his drive to right.
"Colby did a great job," Washington said. "We just wanted to get five out of him."
Both teams were packing after the game, the Angels heading home to a long winter, the Rangers en route to Florida for their first postseason excursion in 11 years.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.