(Sports Network) - The Texas Rangers are closing in on their first division title since 1999 and will begin a three-game series against the AL West-rival LA Angels of Anaheim tonight in southern California.
The Rangers haven't been to the playoffs since their last division championship, something the Angels have been all too familiar with in the past few seasons. Anaheim has won three straight and five of the last six AL West titles, but that run will most likely come to an end since it's 10 1/2 games behind Texas in the standings.
Texas is nine games in front of Oakland with 14 left to play and lost two of three games in Seattle over the weekend to begin a 10-game road trip. The Rangers entered the Emerald City riding a seven-game winning streak, but lost Friday's series opener with the Mariners. After evening the set on Saturday, the Rangers dropped a 2-1 decision in the series finale Sunday.
Tommy Hunter started for the AL West leaders and gave up an RBI single to Josh Wilson in the bottom of the seventh inning to suffer the loss. Hunter was solid through six innings, allowing two runs and six hits, and fell to 12-4 this season.
Nelson Cruz put Texas on the board with a home run in the sixth inning, while Michael Young, David Murphy and Vladimir Guerrero finished with two hits apiece in defeat.
"We didn't swing as well as we're capable of today," said Young. "We just didn't get that big two-out hit, something we've been doing really well over the last couple weeks. Today we just didn't do it."
The Rangers will also visit the Athletics for four games on this trip and hope to keep the runs coming when Derek Holland takes the hill. Holland draws the start for tonight's series opener and the Rangers have scored 19 runs in his last two appearances. He beat Toronto with five shutout innings in an 8-1 win on Sept. 8 before posting a no-decision last Tuesday in an 11-4 victory over Detroit. Holland gave up four runs -- one earned -- in four innings.
Holland, a left-hander, is 3-3 with a 4.12 earned run average in 10 games (8 starts) this season and defeated Anaheim back on May 17. In six lifetime games, four of which have been starts, against Anaheim, Holland is 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA.
The Angels have been playing well lately, but unfortunately it may be too little too late for the three-time defending AL West champions. They took two of three matchups in Tampa Bay over the weekend and have won seven of the last 10 games, including Sunday's 6-3 triumph over the Rays in the series finale.
Bobby Abreu clubbed two home runs and Peter Bourjos added a three-run blast for the Halos, who got five innings of one-run ball out of winning pitcher Scott Kazmir. Kazmir made his first trip back to Tropicana Field since the Rays traded him last season.
"I've already faced these guys three times, so it's nothing new anymore. But being at Tropicana Field, it was a little bit different," Kazmir told the team's official site. "It was just weird, coming out of the dugout from the other side and going up against guys that you've known close to your whole career. But it was a good win for all of us."
Jordan Walden notched his first save by getting the final out of the game, as Anaheim completed a six-game road trip with a 3-3 ledger.
Anaheim will commence a nine-game homestand Monday versus the Rangers, White Sox and Athletics, and is scheduled to send staff ace Jered Weaver to the mound this evening. Weaver is 5-0 with a 2.40 ERA in nine career home starts against the Rangers and beat them at the Big A on August 1. He is 6-4 in 18 career starts in this series.
Weaver won his most recent start last Wednesday in a 7-0 victory at Cleveland, as he allowed just one hit through seven innings and struck out seven batters. The win lifted his record to 12-11 in 31 starts and lowered his ERA to 2.96. The right-hander had been 0-4 in six starts before the victory.
Texas has won seven of 12 meetings with the Angels this season, but lost two of three games the last time it visited Angel Stadium from July 30-August 1.