ARLINGTON -- If it's an American League West clash of contenders, there's a good chance pitching will be the theme.So it was on Saturday at Rangers Ballpark, where Dan Haren and Derek Holland locked up in a spirited duel before Maicer Izturis' ninth-inning single delivered Jeff Mathis with the decisive run in the Angels' 3-2 victory over the Rangers. First-pitch swinging against former teammate Darren Oliver, Izturis -- a .323 career hitter with runners in scoring position -- stroked a two-out curveball into left field. Bobby Abreu had worked a walk ahead of Izturis after Mathis led off the inning with a single. "Late in games, I'm more aggressive -- you've got to win the game," said Izturis, who had another game-winning hit against Toronto on April 9 and is batting .364 during a 10-game hitting streak. "[Oliver] started me with a breaking ball when I faced him [Friday night], and that's what I was looking for this time. It was in the middle of the plate." Oliver, a valuable Angels reliever for three seasons, has seen Izturis perform late-inning magic before. "He's a good hitter," Oliver said. "Obviously, I know. He's got some game on him. It's a tough one to lose right there." The win went to Scott Downs (1-0), with Jordan Walden picking up his seventh save. Oliver fell to 1-4 as the Angels moved to a 1 1/2-game division lead over Texas. Alberto Callaspo, continuing a hot streak, doubled home two Angels runs. The third baseman has 11 hits in his past 25 at-bats, lifting his average to .314. Erick Aybar (.336), Izturis (.331) and Howard Kendrick (.313) also are off to hot starts. Mathis joined the party with two hits, setting the table for Izturis with his line-drive single to open the ninth against Oliver, the man he used to catch. Haren had the Angels four outs away from a win when the Rangers tied it on Michael Young's RBI single off shortstop Aybar with two outs in the eighth. Fernando Rodney had just come on to relieve Haren after Ian Kinsler's two-out double. "As a starting pitcher, you always want to be out there," said Haren, who had held the scorching Young hitless in three trips. "I felt good with Rodney coming in. I was pretty deep in the game. I'm sure [Mike Scioscia] didn't want me to lose the game." Haren is 0-2 with three no-decisions since starting the season 4-0, but his ERA remains a lustrous 1.93, second in the AL. His 61 strikeouts (with five on Saturday) have him tied for second in the AL with teammate Jered Weaver, one behind Justin Verlander. In his 24 starts since joining the Angels last summer, Haren has been given a total of 81 runs of support -- 3.4 per game. "This is sort of my life," he said with a shrug, referring to the no-decision. "No big deal. We won the game. Those are really hard to swallow when they tie it up and we lose. I'll sleep good tonight." So will manager Scioscia, who liked the idea of Rodney coming out of the shadows with his mid-90s fastball and killer changeup against Young. Rodney fell behind, 2-0, before Young hit the sharp grounder that got through Aybar, who has been close to automatic defensively. "Michael hit it good," Scioscia said, "but if you ask Erick, he's going to handle that ball 99 times out of a hundred."
The questionable hit made it an earned run charged to Haren.The Rangers struck first with a second-inning run, putting together three consecutive hits before Haren controlled damage. Mitch Moreland doubled and Adrian Beltre went the other way for an RBI single to right. After Yorvit Torrealba bunted the runners into scoring position, Chris Davis popped up and Endy Chavez flied out. "I had a garbage-type game," Haren said. "I didn't really have much. I pitched out of one jam [in the second], threw one or two more innings and started feeling good. I even felt good in the eighth. I made a mistake to Kinsler, and he hit the back of the [third-base] bag. A little bad luck there." David Murphy viewed it as a typical Haren effort. "We had some opportunities we didn't take advantage of," Murphy said. "At the same time, a guy like that is going to pitch well in those types of situations. He gave up some hits, gave up a run or two and shut us down besides that. That's what he does." Holland's control cost him in the fourth inning. He walked Izturis and Torii Hunter with none out, and Callaspo doubled past Beltre at third to drive in Izturis with the tying run. Two innings later, Callaspo doubled again, this time to left-center, to cash in Kendrick, who'd walked with one out. Holland departed after six innings, having allowed two earned runs on six hits and three walks, with four strikeouts. With a seventh-inning single against Mark Lowe, Aybar extended his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. When Beltre singled to right-center to open the bottom of the seventh, he was 21-for-46 (.457) in his career against Haren. Beltre was erased on a force and Haren got through the inning undisturbed. An 80-inning errorless streak by the Angels ended in the third when Callaspo bobbled Elvis Andrus' grounder leading off. He was left at third.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.