ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers are getting good at these must-win games.
They scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh and held on for a 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, keeping themselves very much alive in the American League wild-card race with the weekend to go.
The Rangers finally picked up some ground on one of the wild-card front-runners, as the Tampa Bay Rays lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-3. The Cleveland Indians won their eighth straight game, beating the Minnesota Twins 12-6.
The Rangers trail both teams by a game with two games to go in the regular season.
Taking the lead: The Rangers got themselves into the Angels' bullpen -- one of their favorite spoils -- and immediately regained the lead in the bottom of the seventh. Ian Kinsler walked to start the inning against Juan Gutierrez. He went to second when he drew a wild pickoff throw from Gutierrez. Elvis Andrus followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Kinsler to third. With the Angels playing the infield in, Alex Rios slapped a single through the right side to score Kinsler for a 4-3 lead. Rios then stole second. On A.J. Pierzynski's infield single to shortstop, Rios came steaming around third to score when Angels shortstop Erick Aybar threw to first base.
Wild night for C.J.: Rangers fans know what a roller-coaster ride it can be with C.J. Wilson on the mound. Texas took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third thanks to three wild pitches, two hit batters and a single allowed by Wilson. He hit A.J. Pierzynski to force in a run as the Rangers took a 2-1 lead. Then Alex Rios scored on a wild pitch for a 3-1 lead. The Rangers did have two runners in scoring position with one out and a chance to extend the lead, but Jeff Baker and Mitch Moreland struck out to end the threat.
Ogando's night: Alexi Ogando kept the Rangers in the game, leaving with the score tied at 3-3, but he did give up the lead in the top of the fifth. Leading 3-1, Ogando allowed a leadoff single to No. 9 hitter Austin Romine, who had also singled and scored in the third inning. After Erick Aybar flied out, Kole Calhoun had a ground-ball single into right field to put runners at first and third. Ogando then walked the dangerous Mike Trout to get to former Ranger Josh Hamilton, who grounded a single through the right side to score Romine and Calhoun to tie the game at 3-3.
The 'pen: Wilson and the Angels found out for the second straight night that the Rangers' bullpen is hardly out of steam. The trio of Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers did serious damage Friday night. They retired all eight batters they faced and totaled six strikeouts. Scheppers had the big inning, facing Trout-Hamilton-Howie Kendrick. Scheppers blew 98 mph fastballs by Trout and Hamilton and got Kendrick to bounce out to second.
Just missed: Leonys Martin almost played the hero again for the Rangers. With runners at first and second and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Martin stung a line drive on C.J. Wilson's 120th pitch into center field. For a moment it looked like Martin would give the Rangers a lead for a third straight night, but Hamilton and his fake beard were able to run it down for the third out.
Up next: The Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have to set the alarm clocks way earlier for Saturday's new start time of 11:05 a.m. in Arlington with rain expected later in the day. For Texas, left-hander Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33 ERA) will face Angels right-hander Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09) on Fox Sports Southwest and ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM and 1540-AM.