ANAHEIM -- Michael Young has been an All-Star, batting champion and Gold Glove winner. Manager Ron Washington is starting to see him as something else.American League Most Valuable Player. "As far as I'm concerned he's the MVP, whether it's this team or the entire league," Washington said. "He's certainly the MVP on this team. I don't get a vote, but if I did, he'd get my vote. If we hold on to this lead, he should be a strong candidate." Young will have some stiff competition going down to the end. Curtis Granderson of the Yankees, Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays certainly deserve strong consideration. Young went into Wednesday's game hitting .340, second best in the league. He was second in hits, tied for fourth in doubles and fifth with 85 RBIs. But Washington said Young's contributions go beyond sheer numbers. The Rangers lost Josh Hamilton for six weeks, they were without Nelson Cruz for two weeks in May and now Adrian Beltre (strained hamstring) isn't expected back until September. But Young has been able to hold together the middle of the lineup, hitting .330 in 53 games when asked to be the cleanup hitter. "He has really stepped up for us when we needed somebody in the fourth spot," Washington said. "He gives you great at-bats and battles for hits. He takes nothing for granted. I appreciate the way he goes about his business, I appreciate what he means to this team and I appreciate how he keeps the other guys engaged. He's pretty special." Young went into Wednesdayís game hitting .406 in his last 24 games. Washington thinks getting significant time at designated hitter earlier in the season has made Young stronger going down the stretch. "Michael can hit ... he won a batting title," Washington said. "But I feel his legs are stronger this year because he hasn't had the grind of staying on the field." He is getting into that grind now. With Beltre on the disabled list, Young started at third base on Wednesday for the 12th straight game.
Back end of rotation providing lift to Rangers
ANAHEIM -- The Rangers spent the first two nights of their four-game series here in Anaheim taking advantage of the back end of the Angels' rotation. But the back end of the Rangers' rotation has been a big advantage to them the entire season.The Angels, going into Wednesday night's game, had received a combined 34 wins from the trio of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. The rest of their rotation had a combined 10 wins for a total of 44 for the whole rotation. The Rangers went into Wednesday's game with 12 wins from Alexi Ogando, 11 each from C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland and 10 from Matt Harrison. That means the Rangers had received 34 wins from their three top winners and 21 from bottom two spots. No other team in the American League had that many wins from the bottom of its rotation. The Yankees and the Red Sox were right behind with 20 wins. "The fact that our young guys have stepped up, stayed healthy and made adjustments has been huge," Lewis said. "That plays to the whole morale of the team, knowing that your fourth and fifth guys are going to give you a quality start every time out." The Tigers have the most wins from their top three starters in the AL. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello had combined for 41 wins. But the rest of the rotation had contributed 10 wins.
Back spasms don't keep Hamilton from lineup
ANAHEIM -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton was back in the lineup on Wednesday, the day after missing the final two innings of a 7-3 victory over the Angels because of spasms in his lower back. The Rangers felt that was just a minor issue and that was reaffirmed when Hamilton showed up at Angel Stadium on Wednesday."When he came in, I asked him how he felt," manager Ron Washington said. "He said he felt great. I didn't ask another question. I got out of there and hid." Nelson Cruz was also back in the lineup for the second straight day. He left Monday's game with some tightness in his left quad, but that has pretty much disappeared. "I haven't felt anything," Cruz said.
Andrus has wild night on defense, basepaths
ANAHEIM -- Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus had an interesting night on Tuesday. He made two terrific plays in the field but also had some trouble rounding second base. He twice slipped and tumbled to the ground while going around the bag."There was some guy in the rocks out in center field who was a sniper shooting at me," Andrus said. Andrus fell going from first to third on a double by Josh Hamilton in the first and again on his sixth-inning single. Both times the Angels couldn't take advantage of it. "The first time the area was still wet and I slipped," Andrus said. "The second one I took one step off the bag and my spikes caught. I think my shoes are worn and about to die." They were good enough on defense. In the fourth, he made a backhanded stab of Bobby Abreu's ground ball, leaped into the air and made a strong throw to first to get the out. In the seventh, with Abreu on first and nobody out, Andrus made a terrific backhanded snatch of Torii Hunter's one-hop smash, then made a reverse pivot and a backhanded flip to second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Rangers got the out at second, but the ball slipped out of Kinsler's hand as he tried to throw to first, missing out on a chance for a double play. "Outstanding," manager Ron Washington said. "It's just too bad they couldn't have completed the double play."
The Rangers missed Dan Haren during their four-game series with the Angels and it looks like they will miss Jon Lester next week when the Red Sox arrive for a four-game series that starts Monday at the Ballpark in Arlington. Lester is scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Royals, which means his next start would be on Friday after the Red Sox leave Arlington. Shortstop Leury Garcia has been placed on the disabled list at Class A Myrtle Beach with an injured left shoulder. Mike Adams has a 1.12 ERA that is the lowest of any reliever with at least 50 innings pitched. Since 1946, the lowest in one season by a reliever with at least 50 innings was 0.61 by Dennis Eckersley in 1990.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.