ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — When the Los Angeles Angels left Texas in mid-May, they had just been swept and were 4½ games behind the surprising Rangers.
Things have certainly turned around since.
"Over the last month, we've been playing better defense, our pitchers have been getting the job done and timely hitting," Torii Hunter said. "We're on all cylinders right now."
Juan Rivera and Kendry Morales hit back-to-back homers and rookie Sean O'Sullivan overcame giving up consecutive homers as the now AL West-leading Angels beat Texas 5-2 on Monday night for their sixth straight victory.
The Angels were without Vladimir Guerrero six weeks ago, and Texas was still hitting.
Guerrero was 2 for 5 and scored twice, including on Rivera's homer that made it 3-2 after he had led off the sixth with a single off Vicente Padilla (6-4). Morales then homered.
The Rangers have lost eight of 11, a slide that cost them the division lead they had held since May 5 — by 5½ games four weeks ago. Los Angeles, which has won 13 of 16 overall, took over first place Saturday and now leads by 2½ games.
Los Angeles will return home after this series ends Wednesday still in first place.
"Just better baseball," manager Mike Scioscia said, explaining the recent surge. "We've gotten guys back, but the biggest influence has been that we've been fundamentally better."
Texas was up 2-1 in the fifth when Marlon Byrd, who already doubled and homered, came up with two runners on and got the pitch he was expecting.
Except Byrd was too far ahead of a changeup and grounded to third baseman Chone Figgins for an inning-ending double play.
"That was a big momentum shift," Scioscia said.
"I believe it changed the game. ... I've got to get those runs in, at least one," Byrd said. "They came back out and do what they do. They just capitalize on mistakes and they don't make many mistakes."
Guerrero led off the sixth with a single and Padilla was gone four batters later. Figgins added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
David Murphy and Byrd hit consecutive 400-foot homers in the third, but that was it against O'Sullivan (2-0) as Texas was held to two runs of less for the 10th time in June. Brian Fuentes worked the ninth for his major league-best 22nd save.
O'Sullivan, in his third major league start since coming up when Ervin Santana went on the disabled list for the second time this season, struck out five and walked two. The right-hander has allowed six runs over 18 innings (3.00 ERA) and could remain in the rotation even when Santana, an All-Star last season, returns to the rotation as early as this weekend.
"He's a young kid who pitched like a vet," Scioscia said.Rays 4, Blue Jays 1
At Toronto, Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell homered and Tampa Bays ruined Roy Halladay's return with its sixth straight victory.
Halladay (10-2) came in having won his past seven decisions, the longest streak in the majors, but lost for the first time since April 21. Jeff Niemann (7-4) won his third straight decision.Athletics 7, Tigers 1
At Oakland, Calif., Mark Ellis hit a two-run homer, and Ryan Sweeney homered and drove in two runs for Oakland.
Kurt Suzuki had a run-scoring double for the last-place A's, who snapped a five-game losing streak. Gerald Laird had an RBI double for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who have lost three of four after a seven-game winning streak.
Rick Porcello (8-5) allowed nine hits and five runs. Brett Anderson (4-7) earned his first victory in four starts.Red Sox 4, Orioles 0
At Baltimore, Jon Lester (7-6) pitched seven shutout innings and J.D. Drew came within a double of hitting for the cycle for Boston.
Jonathan Papelbon got the final out with two on to earn his 132nd career save, tying Bob Stanley for the most in Red Sox history.White Sox 6, Indians 3
At Cleveland, Gavin Floyd (6-5) shut out Cleveland on five singles over 7 2-3 innings and Chicago climbed back to .500 by handing the Indians their 11th loss in 13 games.
Jermaine Dye and Gordon Beckham had RBI singles off Carl Pavano (6-7) as the White Sox (38-38) won for the 10th time in 14 games.Royals 4, Twins 2
At Kansas City, Mo., Miguel Olivo homered, tripled and drove in two runs and Luke Hochevar (3-3) overcame some shaky moments in seven scoreless innings as Kansas City ended a five-game home losing streak.
Kansas City missed a few early chances against Twins starter Nick Blackburn (6-4) before breaking open a tight game on consecutive homers by Alberto Callaspo and Olivo in the sixth inning.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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