Hunter loses first as Rangers waste lead
Staked to five-run edge, righty allows eight in three-plus
ANAHEIM -- Tommy Hunter had a five-run lead going into the bottom of the second inning. He just needed to get at least 12 outs to put himself in position to win his ninth straight game, which would have tied for the second-longest winning streak in club history.He only got half that many outs. Now his winning streak is over and his ERA is exactly one run higher than it was when the night began. Hunter gave up four runs in both the second and fourth innings as the Angels rallied to defeat the Rangers, 9-7, on Friday night at Angel Stadium. The Rangers, who have lost three of four games played in Anaheim this season, lead the Angels by eight games and the Athletics by 8 1/2 games in the American League West. "No game is easy to swallow when you lose," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I thought we played well. We scored seven runs early, but we just couldn't stop them. You have to give those guys credit for battling back, but when you score seven runs, you expect to win the game." Hunter, 8-0 in 10 starts coming into the game, faced just 18 batters and nine reached base on eight hits, including two home runs, and one walk. The bottom five hitters in the Angels' order were 7-for-10 with seven runs scored off him. In one night his ERA jumped from 2.31 to 3.31. "I didn't make good pitches," Hunter said. "I missed over the heart of the plate and they took advantage of it. I just didn't throw well and they hit the ball well." Asked what pitches weren't working, Hunter said, "They hit all of them. They hit them all. Changeup got hit -- single up the middle. Curveball -- home run. Fastball -- home run. That's what happens with big league hitters." Angels starter Ervin Santana, who wasn't nearly as sharp as he was last week in Texas, ended up getting the win by surviving for six innings despite allowing seven runs on 10 hits and two walks and four strikeouts. Santana beat the Rangers, 6-2, last Saturday in Arlington while allowing two runs in seven innings. "I felt like I didn't have anything," Santana said. "No command, no concentration. I battled and got out with a win. I have to credit my teammates. They did a great job offensively and defensively, and the bullpen, too." Hunter beat the Angels last Sunday in Arlington while holding them to three runs in 6 1/3 innings. But this night started off wrong and really never got much better. The Rangers gave him a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but Hunter walked Erick Aybar to start the bottom of the inning. Maicer Izturis followed with a hard grounder back up the middle. Hunter grabbed the ball barehanded and went for the force at second, where shortstop Elvis Andrus made a nice stop on a low throw to get the out. Hunter was immediately tended to by trainer Jamie Reed and threw a couple warmup pitches to make sure the hand was all right before staying in the game. "It was all right," Hunter said. "It was a little shaky on the throw to Elvis, as you can see, but after the next few pitches, it was all right." The Angels didn't score that inning but, down by five, they struck for four runs in the second. Juan Rivera, the No. 8 hitter in the Angels' order, hit a three-run home run and Aybar hit a two-out solo shot for just his fourth homer of the year. An RBI single by Andrus in the third and Nelson Cruz's 15th home run of the season in the fourth made it 7-4. Cruz also extended his hitting streak to 18 games with the home run but the Angels came back to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth. They did so by starting the inning with three straight hits from Alberto Callaspo, Howie Kendrick and Rivera. When Mike Napoli smashed a ground-rule double to deep center, Hunter was finished for the night. Matt Harrison took over, but a fly ball by Aybar scored one run and a single by Izturis gave the Angels an 8-7 lead. Bobby Abreu's RBI double in the sixth made it 9-7. "Tommy didn't have his best stuff, that's all," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's been incredible all year, but nobody expects him to be perfect." "We have a ton of confidence when Tommy is on the mound," third baseman Michael Young said. "When we got that early lead, I thought we were in good shape but they did a good job of coming back." The Rangers scored in each of the first four innings and then were shut out the rest of the way. They had 10 hits in the first four innings and just two in the last five. Andrus had four of the 12 hits. Josh Hamilton had an RBI double in the first but left the game in the seventh with a flare-up of tendinitis in his knees.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.