Nelson Cruz and the Texas Rangers picked the right time to break out of a slump.
Cruz had two long homers among his four hits and drove in six runs as the AL West-leading Rangers stretched their lead to three games over second-place Los Angeles with an 11-7 victory over the Angels on Friday night.
Cruz started the night in a 4-for-27 slide that got him demoted to the No. 7 slot in the batting order for the first time this season, a decision that didn't thrill him.
But he accepted it, and in an attempt to bust the slump, Cruz went without batting gloves for the first time this season.
"It's good to have a good offensive night especially against the Angels," Cruz said. "... Staying in the lineup is the only thing that matters. I don't like the (demotion) but the only thing that I care about is to be in the lineup. I went to the (batting) cage (before the game) and I went without the batting gloves and felt good."
Cruz put the Rangers ahead for good with a two-run double in the second. Cruz, who had hit fifth or sixth in his first 109 starts this season, opened the fourth with a 452-foot drive to center field off Angels starter Dan Haren (13-7).
Cruz connected on a 425-foot, three-run shot in the sixth off Jerome Williams for his team-high 28th homer to make it 11-0.
"I'm not going to take credit for that," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of his decision to slide Cruz down in the lineup and remove some pressure from the slugger. "It was nice to see him bust out because he's a guy we need."
David Murphy's second career grand slam in the fifth knocked out Haren and the Rangers went on to beat their division rival in what they hope sets a tone for the series.
"I think to this point in the season, every game from here on out is going to be our biggest game of the year," Murphy said. "We definitely showed up tonight and took a few days of frustration out and played a great game. It's going to be a battle all weekend long, but we did a great job of starting the series off right."
Michael Young had three hits and Mitch Moreland contributed two doubles to an 18-hit attack for the Rangers, who had been shut out twice in their previous five games.
Rangers starter Derek Holland (12-5) allowed one run and eight hits over 6 2-3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks to improve to 6-1 in his last 10 starts.
Holland received a standing ovation when he left after the Angels finally scored on Bobby Wilson's seventh-inning single.
Russell Branyan had a three-run homer off Yoshinori Tateyama in the Angels' four-run eighth and Howie Kendrick added a two-run blast in the ninth off Mark Lowe to set the final margin.
"Our offense got on track in the last part of the game, but there's not many positives you can take from a game when you lose, especially when you give up so many runs," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked if his team could take any solace from scoring the game's final seven runs.
Haren had won seven of his previous eight decisions and had gone at least six innings in 11 of his last 12 starts, but he gave up seven runs -- six earned -- and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Haren was unable to develop any consistency in a game that got under way in 102-degree heat.
"You throw (106) pitches in four innings, it takes a toll," Haren said. "Throwing 20 pitches every inning is tough enough and the weather makes it harder. I never got in a rhythm where I'd get a quick inning."
The Angels had won six straight to trim Texas' division lead to two games in an eight-game span. The Rangers entered the three-game series having dropped three straight to Boston by a total score of 30-7 and had lost five of their previous six overall.
NOTES: Scioscia altered his rotation for the series, opting to start Ervin Santana on Saturday and Jered Weaver on Sunday. The RHPs will be starting on three days' rest for the first time in their careers. Going with Haren, Santana (9-9) and Weaver (15-6) meant the Angels would use their top three starters against the Rangers. ... Texas starts LHP C.J. Wilson (13-5) on Saturday. ... Since 2003, the Rangers are 5-2 against pitchers starting on three days' rest. ... Washington and his coaching staff will meet with the team's baseball executives on Sunday to consider whether to make changes to the rotation for the final month of the season. ... The Angels took batting practice on the field to get acclimated to the triple-digit temperatures. The Rangers have endured plenty of heat over a record-breaking Texas summer and opted to take BP in the air-conditioned indoor cages. ... Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Round Rock on Monday. Beltre has been on the 15-day DL since July 23 with a strained left hamstring. ... Angels LHP Scott Downs was available in the bullpen after being out for a week with a tight left hamstring.