ANAHEIM, Calif. – Ervin Santana allowed five hits while earning his career-best 17th victory, and the Los Angeles Angels again slowed the Texas Rangers' march to the AL West title with a 2-0 win Tuesday night.
Hank Conger and Hideki Matsui scored after early extra-base hits for the Angels, who have won the past three division titles. Los Angeles pulled within one game of .500 with its ninth win in 12 games, putting a solid finish on a disappointing season.
Santana (17-9) dominated the Rangers' potent lineup during his fifth career shutout, striking out eight and holding Texas without an extra-base hit in its fourth loss in five games.
Santana got more support than Colby Lewis (11-13), who yielded just four hits and struck out 10 in seven strong innings. The Texas right-hander had won his past two starts after a nine-game winless streak, but his teammates never reached third base against Santana.
The Rangers still are in good shape to clinch their first AL West title since 1999, even if it takes a few days longer than they hoped. Texas remained eight games in front of second-place Oakland, which beat Chicago 7-2, and its magic number stayed at six.
Santana had won 16 games twice previously in a career spent entirely with the Angels, but the Dominican right-hander is having perhaps his best season.
Santana faced the minimum 13 batters through 4 1-3 innings, giving up a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero in the second inning but erasing him with a double play. He stranded a runner in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, striking out Elvis Andrus and Michael Young to end the eighth in dramatic fashion.
Santana, whose last shutout was also against Texas on Sept. 28, 2009, beat the Rangers for the third time this season. He also moved into eighth place on the Angels' career strikeouts list with 849, passing Rudy May.
Conger led off the second inning with a triple off the wall and scored easily on Kevin Frandsen's groundout. Los Angeles cobbled together another run in the fourth when Matsui hit a leadoff double, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Mitch Moreland's throwing error.
Before the game, Texas got mixed news on slugger Josh Hamilton, who hasn't played since running into a wall while trying to make a catch on Sept. 4.
Hamilton learned he has two broken ribs after two days of tests in California, and received two injections to speed up his recovery. The major league leader in batting average (.361) is cautiously optimistic he can return to the Rangers' lineup next week before the postseason.
NOTES: Lewis struck out 10 batters for the fifth time this season. ... 1B Kendry Morales returned to Angel Stadium and made his first extensive public comments since breaking his leg May 29 while jumping on home plate to celebrate a game-ending grand slam. Morales is still bewildered by his injury, but said he's slightly ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and expects to be back at full strength for 2011. The Cuban slugger is eligible for arbitration in the offseason. ... Texas RHP Frank Francisco resumed his throwing program and could be back on the mound by next week, but still might not be recovered from a strained muscle in his right side in time for the playoffs.