Extra Bases: Rangers provide blueprint

This is the blueprint the Texas Rangers have to follow to get back into the playoffs -- sans Nelson Cruz. Their 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night was a good place to start.

Get great starting pitching. Martin Perez gave the Rangers that. What a night for the 22-year-old left-hander, who changed speeds effectively and threw more than 100 pitches for the first time in his career.

The bullpen must hold leads. Jason Frasor and then Neal Cotts pitched out of pressure situations in the seventh and eighth innings.

Get some breaks. Angels shortstop Howie Kendrick's inability to to hold onto a popup allowed two runs to score for a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. The Rangers also scored the tying run on a wild pitch.

A little of Adrian Beltre. His solo home run in the sixth inning provided a key insurance run as the Angels put pressure on the Rangers in the late innings.

Play good defense. OK, the Rangers will have to fix that after David Murphy's adventure in right field. But overall of late they've been playing fantastic defense.

The last 49 games of the regular season -- at least of them -- will likely play out like Monday's excruciating win. Buckle up.

UP NOW: Nelson Cruz's teammates rally around him and GM Jon Daniels says he's open to the slugger's return in the playoffs. Rookie Joey Butler gets his first chance at 27-years old. Plus, a post-game blog on Martin Perez.

Jean-Jacques Taylor opined on life after Cruz and Richard Durrett also gives his take on how Cruz can redeem himself.

ON DECK: Yu Darvish (10-5, 2.66 ERA) needs 14 strikeouts to reach 200 for the season. He's done it a team-record four times this season, including in his last start against Arizona. Right-hander Garrett Richards (3-4, 4.18) will start for the Angels. First pitch is 9:05 p.m. You can listen to the broadcast on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.