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TEX@LAA: Beltre's 31st homer extends Rangers' lead

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers are still one game ahead of the Tigers, the Angels are officially eliminated and Adrian Beltre continues to crush the baseball from the No. 5 spot in the order.

Then there is Mark Hamburger, who picked up his first Major League victory on a night when C.J. Wilson was simply tuning up for Friday's start in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

It wasn't easy for Hamburger. He had to wait out a couple of late-inning rallies from the Angels against more established relievers but the Rangers held on for a 4-3 victory on Monday night at Angel Stadium.

"Somebody said: That's one, you only need 299 more to get into the Hall," Hamburger said. "But I'm just happy I pitched well and the team won. I was just happy to be pitching. Not pitching for a while, I just wanted to go in there and do something to benefit my team."

The victory was the Rangers' 94th of the season, tying the 1977 team for the second most in club history. The Rangers, who have won 13 of their last 16, need one more win to tie the club record of 95 set in 1999.

"Yeah, that means something," infielder Michael Young said. "It means a lot. The great thing about this team is that even though we're focused on postseason, we're still coming out and bearing down on the game. We came out tonight to win. These games mean a lot."

That's true when it comes to playoff seeding. The Rangers are 94-66 while the Tigers are 93-67. If the Rangers finish with a better record than the Tigers, they'd get home-field advantage in the American League Divisions Series, hosting the AL Wild Card winner on Friday at the Ballpark in Arlington. If they tie or the Tigers have the better record, the Rangers play the Yankees on Friday in New York. They want to open at home.

"It is important," shortstop Elvis Andrus said after going 4-for-5. "We're still looking forward to opening the playoffs at home. We've got two more games and we want to get two more wins."

Right now the Rays and the Red Sox are tied for that playoff spot. The Angels were still alive until Monday's loss and will miss the playoffs for the second straight season.

"You have to give them credit," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They earned it. We gained momentum too late, as we look back on it. We had opportunities early because nobody was taking off with this thing. Last year was rough, but this one stings a little more because we saw it in front of us and didn't play well enough to get it done."

Wilson pitched two scoreless innings and threw 38 pitches in preparation for Game 1 of the playoffs on Friday. Wilson, without being involved in the decision, finished the season with a record of 16-7, a 2.94 ERA and 223 1/3 innings pitched.

The 2.94 ERA is the ninth lowest in club history and the lowest since Nolan Ryan's 2.91 ERA in 1991. The 223 1/3 innings are the most by a Rangers pitcher since Kenny Rogers threw 227 1/3 innings in 2000.

Wilson would have preferred to pitch longer but was thrilled that Hamburger got a chance to get that first Major League win.

"Yeah, I'm stoked for Mark Hamburger," Wilson said. "His first pitch was a little high ... off the top of the screen. But he came back. He hadn't pitched in a while and we're all really happy for him. He's a good dude. Anytime a guy gets his first Major League win it's a big deal."

Hamburger pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk while striking out three.

"He was awesome," Washington said. "He had a good slider and a good sinking fastball. He hadn't pitched in a few weeks and we didn't know what to expect but he almost gave us four innings."

Dan Haren took the loss for the Angels. The Rangers scratched a run off him in the first inning and Beltre, following a walk to Young, hit a two-run home run in the fourth.

Beltre, hitting in the fifth spot since coming off the disabled list, has now hit home runs in 11 of his last 14 games and has driven in 27 runs in September. Washington considered eventually moving Beltre back into the cleanup spot but has decided to leave Young there. Beltre is doing just fine in the fifth spot.

"It's working," Washington said.

Hamburger took over for Wilson in the third inning and pitched three scoreless innings. He came out for the sixth, getting Howie Kendrick to fly out, giving up a double to Torii Hunter and then retiring Vernon Wells on a popup. With a runner at second and two outs, Washington brought in left-hander Darren Oliver.

But Oliver couldn't get anybody out. Alberto Callaspo reached on an infield single and Mike Trout dropped a soft line drive into left for another hit that drove home a run. Oliver then walked Erick Aybar and pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu to force in a run.

Koji Uehara had to take over and able to get Maicer Izturis on a high pop to first baseman Mike Napoli to end the threat. Young drove in a run with an RBI single in the eighth and the Rangers needed it because the Angels got one in the ninth of Neftali Feliz before he struck out Kendrick to end the game. Comments