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Angels off to best start since 1987 after 8-3 win over Rangers

Shohei Ohtani didn’t play Monday, but the rest of the Angels did, and beat Texas 8-3 anyway.

Right now, it appears that this franchise revolves around its prized rookie pitcher/designated hitter, and why wouldn’t it?

Ohtani’s rise -- as sudden as it has been stunning -- led to one online oddsmaker establishing him as the new favorite to win American League MVP.

This coming not even two weeks after speculation throughout the sport centered on whether he was ready for the big leagues.

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As it is, Ohtani won his first official award in the United States on Monday when he was named AL player of the week.

A few hours later, without him, the Angels defeated the Rangers with a performance that defined the concept of team.

Garrett Richards didn’t go long enough to get the win, but five relievers finished what he started.

Offensively, nine Angels scored, drove in a run or contributed a hit to a productive rally. Many of them did some combination of the three.

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“We’ve got a good vibe going on in here and we’re winning ballgames,” Richards said. “Besides my personal stuff, I can’t be mad at anything else.”

At 8-3, the Angels have matched the franchise’s best record after 11 games. Only Houston and Boston are off to better starts in the AL.

Given a 3-0 lead, Richards was unable to make it through five innings, later citing mechanical issues that are disrupting his timing and tempo.

He did strike out six but also walked five, including three of the final four batters he faced.

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“It’s still early in the season,” Richards said. “This is some stuff that I’m going to figure out before my next start … I’m just a hair off right now.”

Put to work with one out in the fifth, the bullpen again was solid, limiting Texas to two runs over the final 4 2/3 innings.

No American League team has used its relievers to get more outs this season than the Angels have, that reliance so far going rewarded.

Against the Rangers, it was Jose Alvarez, Noe Ramirez, Jim Johnson, Blake Parker and Cam Bedrosian who did the work.

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Alvarez, who retired two batters in the fifth with the potential tying run on base, was credited with the victory.

“I wanted to give him a huge hug afterward,” Richards said of the left-hander. “It was huge by him in that situation.”

With so many contributors, the offensive highlights ranged from a solo homer by Albert Pujols to a tumbling, tag-avoiding slide by Martin Maldonado, the defensive whiz proving he’s also capable of eluding defenders.

The Rangers have left-handed starters scheduled for the next two games, with Ohtani expected to return to the lineup as early as Tuesday. He has homered in his past three games as the designated hitter.

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Manager Mike Scioscia wouldn’t reveal when Ohtani will appear next as a pitcher. He has started both of the past two Sundays.

In the opener of a seven-game trip, the Angels continued to roll with Ohtani only as an observer.

“Luckily, our team is great on the offensive side,” Richards said. “A win is always a positive.”

jmiller2929@yahoo.com

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