ANAHEIM, Calif. — The only incentive left for the Los Angeles Angels is to have a strong finish to another underachieving season and make things difficult for opponents who are still in contention for a postseason berth.
Garrett Richards pitched seven effective innings, and the Angels parlayed three errors and another mammoth home run by Mark Trumbo into five early runs against Derek Holland to beat the Texas Rangers 8-3 Saturday night.
"They're a good team over there, but we're playing good ball right now and every day is a new opportunity to get another W, get some momentum for next year and knock some teams out," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said.
"If we were playing this kind of ball in April, it would have been a different story now and down the road. But it's been one of those years. If you look at our lineup now compared to April, it's two different teams. Guys have come up from the minors and are getting an opportunity to play. We're playing together, pitching great and having some fun."
The Rangers' fifth loss in six games, coupled with Oakland's 2-1 victory against Houston, put them 1 1-2 games behind the Athletics in the AL West race with 21 remaining.
The Angels are 14 1-2 games out of first place despite winning 12 of their last 15 games. And despite the fact that they will miss the postseason for the fourth straight year, they will definitely have a say in the outcome of the division race. The final week of their schedule includes a three-game series at home against Oakland, followed by a four-game set at Texas.
"Their job is to try to spoil us from getting to the playoffs," Holland said. "But no matter who we play, it's going to be tough. I don't care if it's the Angels or whoever you want to throw out there. There's not going to be an easy game from here on out, whether they're a first-place team or a last-place team. We're all competing to get somewhere, and other teams are trying to knock us out."
Richards (6-6) allowed two runs – one earned – and six hits while striking out five and walking one. The right-hander, who finished his night by fanning the side, is 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in seven starts at home this season.
"I started to get a better feel for that as the game wore on," Richards said. "The breaking pitch came, and I started to work ahead of hitters. If you do that, you're going to be successful. I'm keeping it simple right now – just trying to pound the bottom half of the zone, mix my off-speed in for strikes and develop as a pitcher altogether."
Holland (9-8) was charged with eight runs – four earned – and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out four and walked one in his sixth attempt to join Kenny Rogers as the only left-handers in the history of the Rangers/Washington Senators franchise with double-digit victories in three consecutive seasons.
Holland, whose last victory was Aug. 4 at Oakland, gave up unearned runs in the first two innings. The Angels took a 3-1 lead in the first after Holland fielded a dribbler toward the first base line by leadoff man J.B. Shuck and committed a two-base throwing error.
"It was a tough play," Holland said. "I didn't have much time. I might have had a second longer, but that's about it. The kid's flying down the line and it's a bang-bang play."
Shuck advanced on Erick Aybar's sacrifice bunt and scored when four-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre misplayed Mike Trout's slow bouncer for his 13th error. Trumbo drove the next pitch to center field for his 31st homer and second in two nights, following a drought of 57 at-bats without one.
"He's having an awesome year," Trout said. "He's learning a lot of new things this year and making adjustments at the plate. He went through a couple of stretches where he was pressing a little bit, but he's back to being Trumbo and every at bat you look at him and he's got a chance to launch one. So it's fun to watch."
Collin Cowgill led off the Angels' second and reached on a fielding error by shortstop Elvis Andrus. He tried to score all the way from first on a double to left by rookie Luis Jimenez and was thrown out by Andrus on the relay from David Murphy.
Jimenez continued to third on the throw and scored on Green's sacrifice fly – barely making it to the plate in time with a headfirst slide after initially breaking for the plate on contact and having to scurry back to third to tag up.
"On the offensive side, we're probably a more situational team right now, so we have to take advantage of that," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We got some big two-out hits with runners in scoring position tonight, put the ball in play when we had to and Trumbo hit the home run to give us some early runs."
NOTES: Trumbo is batting .235 with 20 games remaining. The lowest average by any Angels player who hit at least 30 homers in a season was by 3B Troy Glaus, who batted .250 with 41 homers in 2001 and .250 with 30 homers in 2002. ... Trumbo's homer was the 17th allowed by Holland, who set a Rangers club record for lefties last season by giving up 32.