Rangers riding high

The Texas Rangers (56-37) still have plenty of games left against the Los Angeles Angels (51-44), but they’ve built a nice cushion atop the AL West.

The Rangers may have a chance to make their lead a season-high seven games Sunday night when Matt Harrison looks to become the AL’s second 13-game winner (8:05 p.m. EDT).

The Angels opened as -115 home favorites and the total checked in at 8 (Source: SportsOptions).

With 10 games left against the Angels following Sunday’s matchup, there could still be plenty of movement at the top of the West standings.

The Rangers, though, are securely in the driver’s seat after rebounding from Friday’s 6-1 series-opening loss with a 9-2 victory Saturday. That got their lead over Los Angeles back to six games, with surging Oakland 6 1/2 back before the Athletics face the New York Yankees earlier Sunday.

Texas won for the sixth time in nine games overall as Ian Kinsler went deep and drove in three runs, Yorvit Torrealba finished a triple shy of the cycle and Mike Napoli hit a pair of solo homers.

Napoli, 5 for 8 in the series, is batting .434 (23 for 53) with eight homers in 14 games in Anaheim since the Angels traded him away before last season.

“Just catching all these guys, I have an idea of what they like to do, but they’re going to try to attack my weaknesses and mix things up,” he said. “I go in there knowing they’re going to be tough on me.”

Harrison (12-4, 2.87 ERA) continues to be tough on opponents. He’ll look to tie Tampa Bay’s David Price for the AL lead in wins and send the Angels to their seventh loss in 10 games since the All-Star break.

The left-hander is 8-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his last 10 starts, including a five-hitter in last Sunday’s 4-0 victory at Seattle. It was Harrison’s second shutout of 2012 and the fourth of his career.

“His confidence is high and he has a real presence on the mound,” third baseman Adrian Beltre told the Rangers’ official website. “We feel comfortable when he’s out there and gets going. We love the way he’s throwing.”

Beltre should feel comfortable in the batter’s box against Sunday’s scheduled Angels starter Dan Haren (6-8, 4.86), who is expected to be removed from the disabled list (lower back stiffness) to make his first start in 19 days.

Beltre, who hit one of the Rangers’ five homers Saturday, is 24 for 55 (.436) with 11 extra-base hits against Haren, who posted an 8.67 ERA in his last five starts before going on the DL for the first time in his 10-year career.

The right-hander will face the Rangers for the second time this season after throwing five innings of two-run ball in a 7-3 home loss June 3, his third straight losing start against Texas.

Harrison went 6 2-3 innings in that contest to pick up the win. He has allowed just one hit in nine matchups with AL batting leader Mike Trout.

The 20-year-old outfielder has been on a tear, going 18 for 43 (.419) with four homers during a 10-game hitting streak to lift his batting average to .354. With a run Sunday, Trout would set the Angels record and the AL rookie mark by scoring in 14 consecutive games.

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus will try to extend his hitting streak to 10. He’s batting .375 (12 for 32) versus Angels pitching this season.

Josh Hamilton looks to push his modest hit streak to five after going 1 for 5 on Saturday. He’s still batting just .180 (9 for 50) in July.

These clubs have split eight games this season.

Rangers to face Jerggernaut in Anaheim

Jered Weaver’s only loss this season came on the road to the Texas Rangers back in May.

It figures to be a different story in Anaheim, where he’s never lost to Texas.

The Los Angeles Angels ace looks to improve to 8-0 at home against the Rangers (55-36) on Friday night to start a three-game set between the AL West’s best teams (10:05 p.m. EDT).

The Angels are -140 favorites and the total have been pegged at 7 1/2 (Source: SportsOptions).

Weaver (11-1, 2.26 ERA) is 6-0 with a 1.63 ERA in eight starts since giving up a season-high eight runs over 3 1-3 innings in a 13-6 defeat to Texas (55-36) on May 13.

That contest was in Arlington, however. Weaver is 6-0 with a major league-best 0.58 ERA in seven 2012 home starts, and he’s 7-0 with a 2.23 ERA in 12 at home against the Rangers.

Los Angeles (50-43) has won his last nine home outings in this series.

The right-hander wasn’t at his best Sunday, although he won his fifth straight start, 10-8 over the Yankees. Weaver gave up five runs with a season-high three homers over seven innings after entering with 20 2-3 scoreless innings.

The Texas hitter who has given Weaver the most trouble is shortstop Elvis Andrus, who owns a .429 average against him. That’s the fifth-best mark for hitters with at least 20 at-bats.

Both teams are in playoff position. The Rangers lead the West by six games over the Angels, who are on top of the wild-card race.

“Yes, it’s a significant series, significant in that they can either catch up or we can move ahead,” Texas manager Ron Washington said.

The teams have split six meetings with 13 remaining.

Former Angels catcher Mike Napoli is 8 for 18 with six runs in the season series and Nelson Cruz is 10 for 24 with two homers, one off Weaver.

Rookie of the Year candidate Mike Trout is 10 for 24 with seven RBIs for Los Angeles. Albert Pujols (3 for 19), Erick Aybar (2 for 16), Alberto Callaspo (3 for 20) and Torii Hunter (1 for 17) have all struggled.

The Angels return home after capping a 2-5 road trip with Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Detroit.

“We just need to kind of catch our breath a little,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We haven’t played well out of the (All-Star) break and we’ve got to get our groove back.”

The Rangers have played twice in the previous four days, splitting a series in Oakland on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Josh Hamilton is mired in a 4-for-31 slump with 10 strikeouts and two home runs for his only extra-base hits in that span. He still leads the majors with 78 RBIs to go with his 28 homers.

Derek Holland (6-4, 4.57) will make his first 2012 start against the Angels. He’s 4-3 with a 4.76 ERA in nine starts versus them.

Callaspo is the Angels’ best hitter against the left-hander with a .389 average.

Holland earned last Friday’s 3-2 win at Seattle with 7 2-3 scoreless innings, improving to 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA in six road starts.

Pujols’ only previous at-bats against Holland came when he went 0 for 4 in last year’s World Series.

Trout, Angels angle for win in Detroit

Mike Trout may be a rookie, but he’s the AL’s top hitter.

The Detroit Tigers (47-43) are learning why.

After leading the Los Angeles Angels (49-41) to their most lopsided road win in more than eight years, Trout looks to continue his torrid hitting and spark another victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night (7:05 p.m. EDT).

The Angels opened as -121 favorites and the total logged in at 9 (Source: SportsOptions).

Trout leads the AL with a .355 average and 30 stolen bases, while his 64 runs scored rank among the major league leaders.

The All-Star outfielder appears on his way to joining Tim Salmon (1993) as the only Angels (50-41) to be named AL Rookie of the Year.

Trout, who turns 21 next month, has been on a tear over the last 23 games, hitting .417 with seven homers and 28 runs scored.

He put on another impressive display Tuesday, going 4 for 6 with a homer, two RBIs and three runs in a 13-0 rout of Detroit (47-44). It was Los Angeles’ most lopsided road victory since beating the Dodgers by the same score June 25, 2004.

The Angels’ 18 hits and five homers against the Tigers were season highs. They’ve totaled 10 homers and 29 runs while winning two of their last three games.

Albert Pujols is 7 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs in those contests, while Mark Trumbo is 11 for 31 with six home runs and 10 RBIs over his last eight games.

Los Angeles may not need to do much offensively with C.J. Wilson (9-5, 2.43 ERA) scheduled to get the ball.

The left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last eight road starts, and seemed headed for another victory Friday before the bullpen surrendered four runs in the eighth inning of a 6-5 loss at New York. He exited after the seventh, yielding two runs and striking out seven.

Wilson has yet to face the Tigers since joining the Angels, but including postseason he went 0-2 with a 6.14 ERA in nine appearances – three starts – against Detroit while with Texas. His last appearance versus the Tigers was a loss in Game 5 of last October’s AL championship series, as he surrendered six runs and three homers in six innings.

The Tigers will try to re-ignite their offense after being held to four hits Tuesday. They had 11 in Monday’s 8-6 victory to open this four-game series.

Detroit has won eight of 10, batting .292 with 15 homers and 56 runs in that stretch.

Miguel Cabrera, who was 1 for 3 Tuesday, is hitting .410 with four homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs over the last 10 games. He’s 3 for 8 with a pair of doubles versus Wilson.

The Tigers will turn to Doug Fister (3-6, 4.39), who has won his last two starts after losing his previous three with a bloated 10.05 ERA. The right-hander – who used to pitch for AL West rival Seattle – is well aware of what the Angels can do.

“This whole lineup, top to bottom, is very good. It doesn’t give us any breaks,” Fister, who is 0-3 with a 4.54 ERA in his last five outings against the Angels, told the Tigers’ official website. “There aren’t any pitches we can take off. It’s really a focus that we have to stay on top of our game from the first pitch on.”

Fister’s latest performance was one of his best of the year. He equaled his season high with eight strikeouts while yielding one run and three hits in seven innings of Friday’s 7-2 victory at Baltimore.