ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Blake Parker ran in from the Big A bullpen with the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth inning. The Los Angeles closer knew he probably had to pull off a six-out save to preserve a victory that the Angels really needed in their playoff chase.
Parker and the Angels haven’t been in the best situations in September. They still keep getting it done.
C.J. Cron hit a two-run homer to cap the Angels’ five-run rally in the sixth inning, and Los Angeles trimmed its deficit in the AL wild-card race to two games with a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
Andrelton Simmons had two run-scoring singles for the Angels (75-72), who gained a game on the Minnesota Twins (77-70) with just their third win in eight games.
“This is when baseball gets fun,” Cron said. “Last year, we were out of the playoffs at this time, and it wasn’t as much fun.”
Given the atrocious injury problems plaguing their patchwork pitching staff, the Angels won this one in a manner that was somehow fitting. Los Angeles used seven pitchers in a bullpen start, with former closer Bud Norris getting the first six outs and Yusmeiro Petit (5-0) pitching two perfect innings after Jesse Chavez blew an early two-run lead.
Parker then had to come in early after Cam Bedrosian allowed three straight Rangers to reach base in the eighth with a 7-4 lead.
“We have a really tight-knit group in the bullpen, and it makes us want to pick each other up,” Parker said. “You want to come in and throw quality strikes, just try to minimize the damage.”
Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre drove in runs with sacrifice flies, but Parker kept the Angels ahead. He finished his sixth save — the first six-out save of his career — when Mike Trout made a sprinting catch on Rougned Odor’s liner.
“That was huge, obviously,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Parker. “For him to just keep the lead after that eighth inning is huge. He made great pitches all night. Blake showed up big-time today.”
Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer in the sixth for Texas (72-75). The Rangers have lost four straight and six of seven, their playoff hopes down to a flicker.
“I’m proud of our guys and the way they continue to battle,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “They came up, really, one out short. There was good energy in the dugout and on the field. We just could not get the outs we needed in the sixth.”
Brett Nicholas drove in two runs for Texas, and Nick Martinez pitched six-hit ball into the sixth inning. Yohander Mendez (0-1) took the loss.
Choo connected for his 19th homer in the sixth off Chavez to put the Rangers up 4-2, but Los Angeles answered with three run-scoring drives off three pitchers. Justin Upton doubled home Trout and scored on Simmons’ tying single before Luis Valbuena’s sacrifice fly put the Angels up 5-4.
Cron added his 15th homer moments later, a 427-foot shot into the bullpens beyond left field.
The Angels lost ground in the playoff race during their recent malaise, but managed to claw back one game after the Twins lost to Toronto earlier Friday. Los Angeles is six games behind the wild card-leading Yankees (81-66).
Norris made his first start since Aug. 31, 2016, after the Angels decided to use their bullpen for the start in place of Andrew Heaney, who had to skip his turn in the rotation due to injury.
“I’d love to do it (again),” Norris said. “I just want to help this team get in the playoffs and make a run at it.”
Rangers: OF Carlos Gomez is taking batting practice less than a week after spraining his right ankle. The club is hopeful he can return before the season ends.
Angels: 2B Brandon Phillips left the game before the eighth inning after feeling tightness in his side on a swing during the seventh. Scioscia isn’t sure of the injury’s severity.
Rangers: Cole Hamels (10-3, 4.05 ERA) has allowed 17 earned runs over 21 1/3 innings in his last four starts, but is 4-1 in his career against the Angels.
Angels: Parker Bridwell (7-2, 3.94 ERA) continues his improbable run in the rotation with his 17th start. The Angels are 14-2 when the unheralded April acquisition from Baltimore takes the mound.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.