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Rangers earn doubleheader split with Angels, winning nightcap 8-7 to clinch playoff spot

Published On: Sep 30 2012 11:14:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 30 2012 11:14:27 PM CDT

ARLINGTON, Texas -

Mike Napoli homered twice and drove in six runs as the Texas Rangers assured themselves and two other teams of spots in the playoffs with an 8-7 victory Sunday night, earning a doubleheader split against the Los Angeles Angels.

Napoli’s second homer in the nightcap was a go-ahead three-run shot in the third.

Two-time defending AL champion Texas (93-66) can be no worse than a wild card. The Rangers can clinch their third consecutive AL West title by winning once in a three-game series at Oakland that starts Monday.

Los Angeles, which won Sunday’s opener 5-4, trails the A’s by three games for the AL’s second wild card with three games left.

The loss by the Angels (88-71) also clinched playoffs spots for Baltimore and the New York Yankees, who are tied for the AL East lead.

After blowing a save in the opener by allowing Torii Hunter’s two-run double with two outs in the ninth, Joe Nathan worked the ninth in the nightcap for his 37th save in 40 chances.

Los Angeles took a quick 4-0 lead in the nightcap that Ervin Santana (9-13) quickly squandered.

Mike Trout, who in the opener became the first major league rookie to reach 30 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season, struck out to start the second game against Derek Holland (12-6).

But the Angels then had four straight hits. Albert Pujols had an RBI double and scored on a single by Hunter before Mark Trumbo’s 32nd homer, a two-run shot, made it 4-0 before Holland worked through the seventh without allowing another run.

Nathan took over against the heart of the Angels lineup after Koji Uehara struck out the side in the eighth. Uehara has retired all 23 batters faced his last nine games, with 15 strikeouts.

David Murphy and Napoli hit back-to-back homers in the second as Texas closed to 4-3. Josh Hamilton had a double in the first for his 127th RBI.

Napoli’s 23rd homer an inning later made it 6-4 and chased Santana, who has given up a majors-high 39 homers. Napoli drove a two-run double into the left-center gap in the fifth to make it 8-4.

It was Napoli’s 10th career multihomer game, four of them against his former team the past two seasons. Napoli played five years for the Angels before being traded twice in five days before the 2011 season, to Toronto and then Texas.

Holland managed to get into the seventh inning, and didn’t allow any more runs until a three-run homer by Howie Kendrick, the last batter he faced. The left-hander, who made it only three innings his previous start, struck out five while allowing seven runs and 12 hits.

Hunter, who lives in nearby Prosper, had seven hits in the doubleheader. He is hitting .350 (98 of 280) since the All-Star break, and his game-winning double into the left-center gap came right after Nathan (3-5) struck out Trout.

The Angels are still trying to make up for their horrendous start to the season that put them in an early hole. They were 8-15 in April after adding slugger Albert Pujols and left-hander C.J. Wilson last offseason.

They still have a chance to make the playoffs after winning 11 of their last 16 games, but need a lot of help from the Rangers.

Los Angeles has to sweep its three-game series in Seattle, and have the Rangers do the same against Oakland. That would force a tiebreaking 163rd game between the A’s and Angels for the second wild card.

Garrett Richards (4-3) retired Nelson Cruz with two runners on in the eighth in the opener, and Ernesto Frieri pitched a perfect ninth in the opener for his 24th save in 26 chances.

That was when the Orioles and their fans, after a 6-3 victory over Boston, were watching on the center field scoreboard in Baltimore. More than six hours later, the Orioles did finally have their first postseason berth since 1997.

Yu Darvish struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings in the opener, when Cruz hit his 24th homer and also threw Trout out on the bases from right field.