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TEX@LAA: Hester hammers first homer for the Halos

ANAHEIM -- There would be no sweep of the division-rival Rangers.

Dan Haren's inefficient start, Bobby Cassevah's struggles out of the bullpen and the lineup's overall lackluster performance -- cohorts in the Angels' 7-3 defeat at home on Sunday afternoon - simply didn't allow it.

The Angels, instead, settled for two of three over the weekend, which nonetheless gave them their first series win over Texas since July of last year and put them at 10-2 over their last dozen games.

Nothing wrong with that.

"We're playing a lot better baseball than the first month, first six weeks, and then you play one of the best teams in baseball and take two out of three, you have to be happy with it," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said, after his team's deficit in the American League West returned to 4 1/2 games.

"We were winning games, but we needed to play well against them, and we did the first two games," Haren added. "And even today, we had a lot of chances to tie or take the lead."

The Rangers made it rather lopsided in the top of the ninth, getting a couple of runs off David Carpenter and Jordan Walden to hand the Angels their first loss by a margin of more than three runs since May 17.

But the Angels, as Haren pointed out, had their chances.

They had them before Cassevah and an uncooperative sinker gave up a two-run bomb to Nelson Cruz in the top of the seventh inning, and they had it going into a premier showdown in the bottom half: Bases loaded, two outs, two-run deficit, Albert Pujols vs. Alexi Ogando.

Ogando wound up winning that battle, retiring Pujols on a broken-bat flyout with a high, 1-2 fastball that was clocked at 99 mph.

"I'll take that showdown," Hunter said. "Bases loaded, Ogando, 98 mph, 99, and Pujols at the plate; I will take that scenario every freaking time."

Haren came in having given up one run and no walks over a 16-inning stretch during his last two starts, but the Rangers (32-22) knocked him out after making him throw 104 pitches in five frames, a stretch that saw him give up two runs on seven hits and two walks.

Haren gave up 20 runs in 24 1/3 innings against the Rangers last year, and hasn't beaten them since October 2010.

"Any time you're throwing 100 pitches in five innings, it's going to wear you down," Haren said. "You're not going to be at your best if you're throwing 25, 30 pitches an inning. You have to tip your cap to them."

His opponent, lefty Matt Harrison, navigated through four perfect innings while throwing only 39 pitches. The Angels finally got to him in the fifth, on a two-out RBI double from Erick Aybar, and added a run on a sixth-inning solo homer by John Hester -- the Angels' first home run by a catcher since April 30.

But Cassevah couldn't keep the game close. He gave the Rangers their third run on an RBI groundout by Ian Kinsler, part of a 30-pitch sixth inning, then returned for the seventh and surrendered a two-run homer to Cruz before recording an out. Cruz's homer, on a 3-0 fastball right down the middle, traveled 484 feet to left-center field, according to ESPN Home Run Tracker -- making it the longest in baseball this season.

"They give me the green light to swing and get good wood on the pitch, and I expected something close to the strike zone," Cruz said.

"I just tried to throw a strike," Cassevah explained. "I didn't want to walk him. And he hit it a mile."

Asked about the decision to run Cassevah back out for the seventh, despite his struggles in the previous frame, Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated that he needed length from the sinkerballer after the bullpen accounted for three innings the night before.

"Bobby had a short outing last night where he didn't throw many pitches; [he] felt good coming into today," Scioscia added. "When he gets that sinkerball going, he can get on a roll. And unfortunately, he was not able to get it."

The Angels (28-27) then rallied in the bottom half of the seventh. Mike Trout's two-out RBI single off Ogando cut the deficit to two and Alberto Callaspo's walk loaded the bases for Pujols, who misplayed a two-out grounder in the fifth to plate a run. But the Angels' first baseman failed to come through, capping an 0-for-3 game that included a walk and put his batting average at .235.

Collectively, the Angels finished with six hits and put just five runners in scoring position in the series finale. And through this recent, rejuvenating run, that's the department Scioscia feels still needs to "blossom."

That's the department that's keeping the Angels from becoming the team they think they can be.

"We've been doing it, really, with just a minimal amount of offense, but we've been really pitching well, playing great defense and our bullpen's been lights out," Scioscia said. "That's a nice combination to have, but we still need our offense to take a step forward and get some more production."

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