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Must C Clutch: Napoli takes out another for lead

ANAHEIM -- Oh, how sweet win No. 96 felt for the Rangers on Wednesday.

Not only did they set a club record for wins with a 3-1 victory over the Angels, but the team secured the No. 2 seed in the American League and will start the AL Division Series at home Friday against the Rays.

Crushing the ball throughout the three-game series against the Angels, Mike Napoli hit his second home run of the game in the ninth, a two-run moon shot to left field off Jordan Walden that proved to be the difference.

"It is nice to know that we are going home and can sleep in our own beds, have a day off," second baseman Ian Kinsler said.

"It was ridiculous in the dugout. We sounded like little girls jumping around and screaming."

The winning blast was Napoli's 30th home run of the season, after he crushed a solo shot to straightaway center in the second off Angels starter Garrett Richards. It is only the third time in team history that the Rangers have three players with 30 home runs, with Napoli joining Kinsler and Adrian Beltre.

"It was tense the whole night. The Angels pitchers really shut us down, but we kept battling and grinding and in the end, we prevailed," manager Ron Washington said.

"I'm certainly glad [Napoli] is on my side."

Napoli, the former Angel who pounded out four home runs in his last two games and recorded his seventh career multi-homer game, said he was just hoping that last home run down the left-field line would stay fair.

"I was talking to it," Napoli said. "I got into a hitter's count. Walden throws pretty hard. I was just trying to get my barrel out in front a little bit. I got lucky enough to do that with.

"It was a great feeling. It got us home-field advantage. We are all happy."

Napoli and other Rangers players said they kept eyeing the scoreboard to see what was happening in the Tigers' game.

The Rangers entered Wednesday with a one-game lead for the No. 2 seed in the AL and needed to win after Detroit beat Cleveland, 5-4, because the Tigers held the tiebreaker.

"Detroit was going to come out and win, so we had to find a way to take care of business, and Nap did that for us and it was the difference maker," designated hitter Michael Young said.

The Rangers went 19-6 in September and closed on a six-game win streak.

"We played really well this month. It says something about our experience level to put our foot on the gas at the right time," Young said.

Now after such a successful month, the Rangers will travel back to Texas to face the Rays in a rematch of last year's ALDS instead of heading to New York to play the Yankees, something much preferred by Washington.

He saw his team battle back Wednesday, just like they have done the whole season.

"We did what we had to do and we've been doing that all year," Washington said. "We certainly didn't want to take a five-hour trip to New York. I'll take the 2:15, 2:45 trip and stop off in Texas. That is how important it was."

Cruising through the first four innings without allowing a runner into scoring position, Rangers starter Matt Harrison got into a jam in the fifth by surrendering a leadoff double to Bobby Wilson.

A soft roller to shortstop and a sacrifice fly by Angels second baseman Gil Velazquez then evened the score at 1. However, it was the only run the Rangers would allow as Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz each pitched a scoreless inning. Feliz earned his 32nd save.

"They're obviously a high-caliber club," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They had an incredible season. There's going to be some good baseball in the playoffs."

In six innings, Harrison surrendered just the one run on five hits for the no-decision. He also walked one and struck out four to finish the regular season at 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA.

"Our chances are as good as anyone in it. If we go play our type of baseball, I'll go play it against anyone," Washington said. "We are happy to be in and play good baseball. We aren't looking ahead, and we're just looking towards Friday to get started." Comments