Power Rangers flex muscles against Angels in 7-3 win
It was raw power versus brute strength, the scorching heat of Texas reliever Alexi Ogando against the explosive swing of Angels slugger Albert Pujols, with the bases loaded, two out in the seventh inning and the game on the line.
“That was a 98-mph fastball against a Hall of Famer,” Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said. “I’d take that showdown every day, every time.”
Not Sunday. Ogando cranked his fastball up to 100 mph according the Angel Stadium radar gun and shattered Pujols’ bat, inducing a weak fly ball to left field to end the inning and preserve a two-run lead.
The Rangers tacked on two insurance runs in the ninth inning for a 7-3 victory that prevented a three-game sweep and extended their American League West lead over the Angels to 41/2 games.
“There’s no doubt he opened up that carburetor on Albert,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said of Ogando, who gave up a run-scoring single to Mike Trout and walked Alberto Callaspo before facing Pujols. “He really turned it loose there.”
The Pujols at-bat may have been the decisive moment Sunday, but another big one came in the seventh inning, when Scioscia tried to squeeze an extra inning out of reliever Bobby Cassevah.
Cassevah didn’t have much after replacing starter Dan Haren in the sixth inning, giving up a leadoff double to David Murphy and hitting Mike Napoli with a pitch. After Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice bunt, Murphy scored on Ian Kinsler’s groundout to give Texas a 3-1 lead.
Cassevah walked Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton to load the bases before getting Adrian Beltre to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
John Hester led off the bottom of the sixth with a home run to left field against starter Matt Harrison, the first run batted in by an Angels catcher since Chris Iannetta went on the disabled list May 10, to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2.
But with right-hander David Carpenter warming up, left-hander Hisanori Takahashi stirring and right-hander Jason Isringhausen available, Scioscia left Cassevah in to start the seventh inning.
Two batters later, Texas had a 5-2 lead, as Michael Young singled and Nelson Cruz, on a 3-and-0 pitch, crushed a two-run home run to left-center field, a shot ESPN home run tracker estimated at 484 feet, the longest home run in the majors this season.
“I was trying to throw a strike — I didn’t want to walk him,” said Cassevah, who was making his third appearance after being recalled from triple A. “He hit it a mile.”
Cassevah’s command was off during his 30-pitch sixth inning, in which he threw 16 balls. Why did Scioscia think he could coax another inning out of him?
“We needed it,” Scioscia said. “Bobby felt good, and when he gets that sinker going, he can get on a roll. Unfortunately, he was not able to get it. We had some length from Bobby. It set up well for him to keep us in the game.”
After the Cruz home run, Scioscia replaced Cassevah with Takahashi, who retired the next three batters to end the inning.
The Rangers got to the bullpen early by driving up the pitch count of Haren, who gave up two runs and seven hits, struck out two and walked two in five innings, throwing 104 pitches.
“They’re good at working counts and drawing walks, and their seven-eight-nine hitters could probably bat three-four-five in a couple of National League lineups,” Haren (3-6) said of the Rangers. “They never let you catch your breath.”
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