ARLINGTON, Texas -- Torii Hunter saved the day for the Angels, and maybe the season.
Hunter’s two-out, two-run double in the ninth inning Sunday gave the Angels a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers in the first game of a doubleheader.
“That is, no doubt, the biggest hit of our season so far,” Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
The victory moved the Angels to within two games of the Oakland Athletics for the final American League wild-card spot, with four games to play. The A’s are playing the Seattle Mariners on Sunday afternoon, and the Angels and Rangers conclude their doubleheader at 4 p.m. PDT.
The victory, at the very least, guarantees the Angels will remain alive in the wild-card race beyond Sunday.
Hunter has driven in 25 runs in 26 games this September and the ninth-inning double was his fourth hit of the game. He is batting .330 this month and .344 since the All-Star break, in search of the first World Series appearance of his 15-year career.
“I’m hungry,” Hunter said. “I’ve told you this a thousand times the last three or four years: I’m about winning.”
The Angels trailed, 4-3, with one out in the ninth inning and Rangers closer Joe Nathan on the mound. Maicer Izturis singled and Chris Iannetta walked, bringing MVP candidate Mike Trout to the plate.
Trout had homered in his previous at-bat. This time, he struck out.
Hunter then came up and laced a double into left-center field, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs. Angels closer Ernesto Frieri retired the Rangers in order for the save.
Nathan, who had converted 31 consecutive saves at one point this season, blew just his third save in 39 chances.
Said Angels starter Zack Greinke: “In Kansas City, I never saw anyone even get on base against Joe Nathan. That’s kind of crazy.”
With the Angels trailing, 4-2, Izturis led off the seventh inning with an infield grounder. First-base umpire Mark Wegner ruled Izturis safe at first base, but Texas Manager Ron Washington convinced Wegner to ask his fellow umpires for help.
After all four umpires huddled, the call was reversed. Izturis was ruled out, a ruling supported by television replays. Had Wegner’s initial ruling stood, Trout’s subsequent home run would have tied the score.
Trout’s homer was his 30th, making him the first rookie in major league history with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
He also became the youngest player in major league history with 30 homers and 30 steals. He is 21; Alex Rodriguez previously set the record at 23.
Zack Greinke, pitching for the first four innings with the name on his jersey misspelled as GRIENKE, held the Rangers to six hits over 7 1/3 innings. But the Rangers bunched four of those hits in the second and third innings for four runs.
Nelson Cruz hit a two-run home run in the second. The Rangers scored twice more in the third, once when Elvis Andrus scored from first base on a two-out single by Josh Hamilton, once when Hunter lost a fly ball by Adrian Beltre in the sun for an RBI double.
Unless the Angels advance beyond Wednesday’s scheduled end of the regular season, the start might well have been Greinke’s last for the Angels. He is eligible for free agency after the World Series.
The Angels traded three prospects to the Milwaukee Brewersfor Greinke. In 13 starts in Anaheim, Greinke went 6-2 with a 3.53 earned-run average.