ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - It took the Los Angeles Angels 4½ months to catch the Oakland Athletics and move into first place in the American League West.
Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick homered to give the Angels an early lead on the way to a 5-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night.
The Angels (72-49) are alone in first place in the AL West for the first time since 2011, but they are only two percentage points ahead the Athletics, who lost at Atlanta on Saturday.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Pujols said. “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. When we accomplish our goal, then we can talk about it.”
With his team in fifth place, Rangers manager Ron Washington talked about the division race.
“I think it’s going to come down to who continues to pitch well,” he said.
The Angels finished 78-84 and in third place during an injury-plagued 2013 season.
“It definitely feels good to be on the track we hoped to be on last year,” manager Mike Scioscia said.
One reason for their improvement to the best record in the major leagues is a better bullpen.
Huston Street worked a scoreless ninth inning for his 33rd save in 34 opportunities. It was the second straight night the Rangers rallied before losing 5-4.
Los Angeles has won nine in a row over Texas, tying the series record set during the 1985 season and matched a year later.
Street hasn’t allowed a run in 12 games with the Angels since being acquired from San Diego on July 18.
“He’s just a bona fide closer,” Scioscia said. “He has created an opportunity for us to shorten the game by moving (Kevin) Jepsen up to the seventh inning, and Joe Smith up to the eighth.”
Angels starter Matt Shoemaker (11-4) pitched three perfect innings before Shin-Soo Choo led off the fourth with a home run, but by that time, the Angels led 5-0.
Kendrick added two singles in a 3-for-4 night. Kole Calhoun had a single and a double for the Angels, and Erick Aybar had two singles.