Scott Kazmir threw six shut-out innings for his first win as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Texas Rangers 2-0 on Friday. The win increased the Angels' American League West lead over Texas to a season-high seven and a half games with 15 to play, meaning the Angels need nine more wins to collect their fifth division title in six years.
Closer Brian Fuentes threw a scoreless ninth for his major league-leading 43rd save to preserve the win for Kazmir, who allowed six hits, struck out five and walked none. Kazmir, who joined the Angels from Tampa Bay at the end of last month, threw 77 strikes in 104 pitches. He said: "You want to make sure you attack the strike zone and don't let them in good counts where they can get comfortable. That's what you have to do against hitters who are struggling.
"Any time you're with a new team, you want to show what you're made of. This was the perfect example. There was something I wanted to prove," he added. "It's always exciting to get your first one with your new team, especially a team that's trying to get a play-off spot." The Angels went ahead in the first innings on Torii Hunter's RBI single and added a second run in the third, more than enough to beat a Rangers side who failed to score a run for the fourth time in five matches.
Texas trail Boston by seven games in the race for the wild card sport after the Red Sox beat Baltimore 3-1. Tampa Bay won 11-4 at home to Toronto, and Minnesota Twins had a 3-0 victory against Detroit to keep the pressure on the Central leaders. But the biggest winners of the night were Kansas City, surprising 11-0 conquerors of out-of-form hosts Chicago White Sox.
The New York Yankees succumbed to a late rally as Seattle won 3-2 thanks to Ichiro Suzuki's two-run homer in the ninth inning. Oakland's recent revival continued as they held on for a 2-1 win at home to the Cleveland Indians. Florida's National League wild card prospects were fading fast when they trailed 2-0 away to Central strugglers Cincinnati, but they turned the match on its head in the ninth inning and came out 4-3 winners.
The Marlins' victory was all the more precious after Colorado came unstuck against the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose 7-5 home success was a significant blow for the suddenly rocking Rockies. Those two results left Florida four game behind Colorado, while San Francisco trail the Rockies by only two-and-a-half games after an 8-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pittsburgh beat San Diego 5-1, while it finished 6-5 as visiting Washington beat fellow East strugglers the New York Mets.
Philadelphia retained their stranglehold in the East with a 9-4 win away to Atlanta. Houston's all-Central battle at Milwaukee finished 3-2 to the Brewers, and St Louis beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2. * With agencies