Jered Weaver outpitched Cliff Lee with seven sharp innings in a matchup of the AL's strikeout and ERA leaders, and the Los Angeles Angels took the rubber game of the series with a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
The Rangers' lead in the AL West was shaved to eight games by the three-time defending division champs, who avoided falling at least 10 games out of first place for the first time since the end of the 2003 season.
Weaver (10-7) allowed an unearned run and four hits and struck out seven to increase his league-best total to 162. The right-hander, making his fourth start against the Rangers this season, was coming off a pair of hard-luck losses — one of which came at Texas when Lee beat him 3-2.
AL batting leader Josh Hamilton, who wasn't in the Rangers' starting lineup for the second straight game because of patella tendinitis in his right knee, drew a walk while pinch-hitting for Julio Borbon in the seventh with one on and one out. Jorge Cantu ran for him and was erased on a fielder's choice grounder by Elvis Cantu, who stole second. But Michael Young flied out with the potential tying runs in scoring position.
Fernando Rodney pitched a perfect eighth and Brian Fuentes got three outs for his 20th save in 24 attempts, after the Angels scored their final run on Howie Kendrick's sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Lee (9-4) went the distance for the seventh time this season, allowing nine hits over eight innings and striking out four. The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, who has pitched at least eight innings in each of his last nine starts, is 1-2 with a 2.91 ERA in five outings with the Rangers after joining them in a trade from Seattle on July 9. Overall, his ERA is a league-best 2.51.
The Angels opened the scoring in the first with an RBI single by Alberto Callaspo and a run-scoring groundout by Mike Napoli. Kendrick followed with a double to left field, but Napoli was thrown out at the plate on shortstop Elvis Andrus' relay from David Murphy. Texas catcher Taylor Teagarden did a nice job of holding onto the ball despite a jarring hit by Napoli, who came in standing up.
The next time Napoli came up in the fourth, he tried to check his swing on an inside pitch and got hit on the left hand after Torii Hunter led off the inning with a single. Hunter scored the Angels' third run on a fielder's choice grounder by Juan Rivera.
Weaver, who hasn't pitched more than seven innings in any of his 23 starts, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third by retiring former teammate Vladimir Guerrero on a fly ball. But Guerrero trimmed the Angels' lead to 3-1 in the sixth with an RBI double to right-center. Michael Young scored all the way from first after reaching on an error by third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
NOTES: Angels C Jeff Mathis, still feeling the effects of his collision last Sunday at Texas with since-demoted Chris Davis, sat out for the fourth straight day after starting the first two games of the homestand against Boston. ... Angels LHP Scott Kazmir, sidelined since July 11 because of shoulder fatigue, will be at the team's spring training complex in Tempe, Ariz., on Monday to throw a 60-pitch simulated game. If there are no setbacks, he might rejoin the rotation next weekend at Detroit. ... The Angels have won eight division titles in their 50-year history — five in the past six years — but have never erased a deficit of more than 5½ games to do so. ... Rangers LHP Derek Holland was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... Texas RF Nelson Cruz was 0 for 3 with a walk, ending his career-best hitting streak at 19 games. ... The teams don't meet again until Sept. 20 in Anaheim. They play each other seven times during the final 14 games of the regular season.