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It’s an Elimination Game for the Angels in Texas, 9-8

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From Associated Press

The Texas Rangers may have nothing to play for, but Alex Rodriguez is maintaining his focus to the end.

Rodriguez hit his career-high 47th homer to tie Ernie Banks’ major league record for home runs in a season by a shortstop and the Rangers hung on to beat the Angels, 9-8, Friday night.

With their fourth defeat in five games, the Angels were eliminated from the playoff race.

“We made a good run,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “But for the last two weeks we haven’t played the kind of baseball that we need to be considered a championship-caliber type club. We didn’t pick it up in the time of the year where we had an opportunity.”

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Rodriguez has been picking it up, hitting six home runs in the last nine games. He led off the fifth inning with a homer into the right-field seats off Ismael Valdes (9-11) to give the Rangers a 6-2 lead and match Banks’ record for shortstops set in 1958 for the Chicago Cubs.

“It’s a good feeling because I’m a friend of Mr. Banks,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been kidding him that I’m chasing him and he kids me and says he’s trying to run away from me. I finally got to catch him.”

Rodriguez also equaled the Ranger record for homers in a season held by Juan Gonzalez (1996) and Rafael Palmeiro (1998).

Rodriguez has played in all 148 games and plans on playing the entire schedule. He’s been refreshed by the recent break when baseball shut down in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

“I feel like it recharged my batteries,” said Rodriguez, who tied Cleveland’s Jim Thome for the AL home run lead. “I want to be in the lineup. I take pride in that. I just love the game so much.”

Ranger Manager Jerry Narron said Rodriguez’s MVP credentials would be overwhelming if his team were a postseason contender.

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“No question in my mind,” Narron said. “He’s had a great year and that’s an understatement. He does so many things besides his numbers and his numbers are phenomenal. He comes out every night ready to play and play with enthusiasm and that’s why these guys haven’t quit.”

Rookie Carlos Pena went four for four and had a career-high five runs batted in for Texas. Pena drove in three runs with his first career triple and added two doubles and an RBI single.

Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon each homered, drove in two runs and scored twice for the Angels.

Ranger starter Rob Bell (5-4) won for the first time since July 27, giving up five runs and eight hits in 62/3 innings. Bell struck out two and walked two.

Texas closer Jeff Zimmerman came in with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth with a 9-5 lead. He gave up a two-run single to Bengie Molina and a sacrifice fly to Erstad to get the Angels within 9-8.

But Zimmerman retired the side in the ninth for his 14th consecutive save and 25 save in 28 chances.

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Pena’s bases-loaded triple in the fourth put Texas ahead for good after Scott Spiezio’s run-scoring double in the third gave the Angels a 2-1 lead.

Ruben Sierra followed Rodriguez’s homer in the fifth with a two-run shot, his 20th, for an 8-2 lead.

Angel starter Ismael Valdes gave up seven runs and nine hits in four-plus innings. Valdes is 1-5 in his last six starts.

Salmon’s two-run homer in the sixth and Erstad’s solo shot in the seventh got the Angels within 8-5.

It was Salmon’s 27th career home run against Texas--the most by any Ranger opponent--and his 15th at the Ballpark in Arlington. It was Erstad’s first homer since July 26 against Tampa Bay.

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