ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Mike Trout stepped to the plate against young Rangers reliever Jose Leclerc with a runner on second base and the entire Angel Stadium crowd anticipating another exhilarating comeback.
Three pitches later, Trout was back in the dugout. One pitch after that, Albert Pujols joined him.
The Rangers’ bullpen had no interest in another night of drama.
Joey Gallo hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the fifth, and the Rangers coolly prevented a third straight late-inning comeback by the Angels, beating Los Angeles 8-3 on Wednesday.
Mike Napoli, Elvis Andrus and Carlos Gomez homered for the Rangers, and A.J. Griffin (1-0) pitched six innings of four-hit ball to pick up his first victory in six starts dating to last September.
A trio of Texas relievers doused the Angels’ hopes for a third consecutive victory featuring a rally from a multi-run deficit in the ninth inning. The Angels rallied from a six-run deficit in the ninth to beat Seattle last Sunday, and followed it up against the Rangers on Tuesday with a rally from a three-run deficit in the ninth and a walk-off win in the 10th.
The third time had no charm, thanks to Texas’ relievers.
“It was huge, especially for our bullpen,” said Andrus, who homered in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. “They were able to come back and shut that team down. That’s the bullpen we know.”
Leclerc did the most eye-catching work in just his 16th big league appearance, thwarting the Angels’ eighth-inning threat by striking out Trout on a pair of nasty changeups and getting Pujols to pop out.
“I was a little nervous, but I took a little break and I said, ‘Let’s throw strikes,’” Leclerc said. “I just wanted to use the best pitches in my repertoire.”
Trout hit an early homer and drove in his ninth run in nine games for the Angels, but they were beaten at home for the first time this season after four straight wins.
Los Angeles (6-3) lost for just the second time since opening day thanks to its latest mediocre starting pitching performance.
Jesse Chavez (1-1) yielded five runs and five hits before getting chased in the fifth inning. Only one Angels starter has made it through six innings for Los Angeles, and the rotation has a combined 5.67 ERA.
“We’ve got confidence in this group,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think we’re going to start to see the length of the starts.”
Napoli’s solo shot in the second inning added to his outstanding career numbers against the Angels, who drafted him in 2000. He spent his first five big league seasons in Anaheim, and has consistently crushed the ball against Angels pitching ever since, batting .347 with 20 homers and 46 RBIs.
“We all have that chip on our shoulders when we want to do well against our former team,” said Chavez, a former Rangers pitcher. “We’re that team for (Napoli).”
Rangers: With reliever Matt Bush away from the club for treatment on his sore right shoulder, Texas recalled RHP Nick Martinez from Triple-A Round Rock. … Rangers closer Sam Dyson was unavailable after throwing 24 pitches in Tuesday night’s meltdown.
Angels: RHP Andrew Bailey went on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Los Angeles recalled right-hander Daniel Wright from Triple-A Salt Lake. Bailey hasn’t allowed a run all year, but felt pain in his shoulder Monday. He joins closer Huston Street and starter Garrett Richards on the Angels’ disabled list. … J.C. Ramirez will start Friday in Kansas City to fill Richards’ spot in the rotation.
Rangers: Yu Darvish (0-1, 3.65 ERA) is winless after two starts for the first time since coming to the majors, but his seven career wins over the Angels are his most against any opponent.
Angels: Opening day starter Ricky Nolasco (0-1, 3.86) beat the Rangers for the first time last July.