ARLINGTON -- The Rangers ran into the hottest starting pitcher in baseball, and a center fielder who tore around the bases and bounced off the ballpark walls for three nights.That's about all that needs to be said about a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark that handed the Halos an early season series and first place in the American League West. And while it's early and the Angels only stand a game ahead of the Rangers, the squad they rolled out this week certainly gave their AL West rivals reason to pause. Jered Weaver became the fastest pitcher to five wins in his club's first 18 games since 1990, when Dave Stewart did it for Oakland (the A's went to World Series). Meanwhile the fleet-footed Peter Bourjos had seven hits in the series, and his wall-crashing catch to rob David Murphy of a home run in the seventh inning will be one of the best in the Major Leagues when October rolls around. "They do have pitching," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They have some guys that play baseball, too. And that little center fielder had a good series. He was all over the place." The Rangers lost their third consecutive rubber game, and third straight series, but are still 11-7 headed into a weekend series with Kansas City. The Rangers managed six hits against Weaver, and didn't draw a walk while striking out eight times. Harrison did enough to keep his team in the game, but Bourjos' acrobatic catch, and another poor relief outing by Darren O'Day gave the Rangers less than a fair chance against Weaver. Yet optimism still flowed in the Rangers' clubhouse, as it probably should on April 20. "We're playing good baseball," Washington said. "Those other teams are playing good baseball, too. We're only in April. It's not time to panic." The Angels did just enough against Harrison, who only allowed four hits. Their first hit against the left-hander gave them a 1-0 lead. Second baseman Howard Kendrick pounded a 1-and-2 changeup over the left-field wall. The Angels stole a run for a 2-0 lead in fifth. As was typical of this series, Bourjos was right in the middle of it. He had his fourth extra-base hit in 12 at-bats, a triple to center field. He then breezed home on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by catcher Jeff Mathis. It was old-school Angels' baseball, the kind they've played for years under Mike Scioscia while dominating the AL West up until last season. Harrison worked out of a bases-loaded jam to avoid a big inning in the fifth. After two straight walks, he struck out Torii Hunter to end the inning. But with the way Weaver was pitching, the damage was done. "I know it's going to be a close ballgame," Harrison said. "I know I have to make my pitches. I know I made a couple of mistakes, but I thought I pitched a good game." The Rangers finally got to Weaver in the bottom of the sixth. Elvis Andrus had a two-out single. Young's bloop down the right-field line hit just inside the chalk, scoring Andrus to cut the lead to 2-1. The Angels regained their two-run lead on Maicer Izturis' run-scoring single with two outs in the top of the seventh. Then came Bourjos' game-clinching catch. Murphy lifted a drive to straightaway center field. Bourjos took off running and got back to the wall, where he leaped up with his back to the fence and snagged the ball as it was about to be a 3-2 game. "That catch was awesome," Weaver said, who walked toward second base and pumped his fist in salute to Bourjos. "It gave me a lot of motivation. It was unbelievable. I've seen some great catches by Gary [Matthews Jr.], Torii. That was right up there with the best ones I've seen, for sure." Added Harrison: "That guy is white lightning out there." Arlington native Vernon Wells added his first home run of the season in the eighth, a solo shot off struggling Rangers reliever Darren O'Day for a 4-1 lead. O'Day also hit two batters in his inning of work. Weaver finished things from there, getting a complete game and giving the Angels an early edge in what should be a fierce battle all season with the Rangers. "He was on top of his game tonight," Young said, "and his defense helped him out a lot, too."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.