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Branyan belts a three-run blast to right

ARLINGTON -- Something about the Angels brought out the beast in the slumbering Rangers on Friday night.

Nelson Cruz and David Murphy took care of the heavy lifting, and Rangers southpaw Derek Holland outdueled Dan Haren in an 11-7 decision that kicked off the American League West weekend showdown in front of 38,256 at Rangers Ballpark.

The Angels stirred late with homers by Russell Branyan and Howard Kendrick, but the damage had been done by a pair of Cruz missiles along with a jackpot blow by Murphy at Haren's expense.

The Rangers, who had lost three in a row and six of their previous eight games, extended their division lead to three games while snapping the Angels' six-game winning streak.

"I never really had a quick inning," Haren said. "Every inning I was working really hard. When you're working really hard, you're vulnerable to make mistakes -- which I did."

A pair of cut fastballs in bad locations to Cruz and Murphy left Haren feeling the blues.

Cruz homered twice, doubled and singled, driving in six runs. Murphy knocked home four with one swing, launching his second career grand slam to end Haren's night during a disastrous fifth inning.

"I don't know if he wasn't on, or our offense showed up tonight," Murphy said. "I think we took some frustration out tonight and played a great game, but it's going to be a battle all weekend. We did a great job to start off the series. Hopefully, we can take it into [Saturday]."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia mentioned the magnifying glass that comes with a series of this magnitude and tried to visualize his glass as half full.

"We can score runs," Scioscia said. "Obviously, it's not the type of game we want to play. We have to pitch and make plays on the defensive side. Tonight we struggled in a number of areas. This year we've held our own with these guys in this park. We've swung the bats well."

Texas has taken four of seven from the Angels in its home yard, largely on the wings of one of the game's most dangerous attacks.

Murphy's blow was only the second grand slam Haren has surrendered. The first, by Montreal's Tony Batista, came seven years ago.

Haren fell to 13-7 with his first loss in eight starts. He has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 20 hits in his past two outings against Texas, covering 8 2/3 innings.

"Dan's had a great year for us," Scioscia said. "He's pitched some good games against them and struggled. There's no trend."

Bobby Wilson's bloop single with two outs in the seventh ended Holland's shutout bid -- and his night. It cashed in Vernon Wells, whose leadoff double was his second hit of the game.

Branyan, having just entered the game, unloaded a three-run homer, his fourth in 60 at-bats for the Angels, during a four-run eighth against Yoshinori Tateyama. Mark Trumbo's RBI single had followed singles by Kendrick and Mike Trout, another late entry.

Kendrick's career-high 12th homer, to center, came in the ninth against Mark Lowe. It followed Bobby Abreu's 548th career double, moving him into 25th on the all-time list, past Manny Ramirez.

"Not many positives you get out of a game like this," Scioscia said. "But we came back and swung the bats, and that's what we hope to carry into [Saturday's] game."

Holland, who had a 6.41 ERA in four August outings coming into the game, moved to 12-5. He'd come within one out of a complete-game victory in turning away the Angels on Aug. 16.

After the Angels squandered a first-inning opportunity, the Rangers took the lead in the second with three consecutive hits against Haren.

The uprising began with a single to center by Mike Napoli, the former Angels catcher who is enjoying a big season in Texas. Napoli took third on Mitch Moreland's opposite-field double into the left-field corner, and they both scored when Cruz doubled to left center.

Haren pitched out of that jam and another in the third after a pair of hits. But Cruz unloaded the leading off the fourth with an estimated 452-foot blast to center, the 10th-longest home run in the history of the park.

"I made a few mistakes and got us down early," Haren said. "Obviously, 100-plus pitches in four-plus innings took a toll."

Unable to capitalize on singles by Peter Bourjos and Abreu leading off the game, the Angels remained scoreless through five innings for the 44th time this season.

A fielding error by Erick Aybar on a potential double-play grounder by Napoli paved the way for the decisive blast by Murphy.

"We had a perfect 4-6-3 double play we didn't turn," Scioscia said. "We didn't do enough minimizing damage."

Cruz's infield roller loaded the bases with one out, and Murphy managed to keep his drive down the right-field line inside the pole for his sixth homer.

"It was a cutter," Haren said. "I thought he was looking out over the plate. I wanted to come in, but I didn't get in enough. It was just not a very good pitch."

Cruz's second homer of the night and No. 28 of the season carried to left center, a three-run blast against Jerome Williams. Singles by Michael Young -- his third hit -- and Napoli and Moreland's RBI double preceded Cruz's rocket. This one was assessed at 425 feet, giving him 877 feet worth of homers for the night.

Cruz became the first player in Rangers history with three games of at least six RBIs in a season. Comments