It was supposed to be over, all those early season hopes of a playoff spot, when the Texas Rangers sent ace Yu Darvish to the Dodgers and starting catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies.
The Rangers were six games under .500 on Aug. 1, a team worth giving up on.
"That's not the way we look at it," said Texas rookie Drew Robinson. "We believe in the guys we have here."
Robinson hit a two-run homer as the Rangers continued an improbable push for a wild-card spot Thursday night, riding seven strong innings from Martin Perez to a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas has won eight of 11, pulling within a game of the final AL wild card. Despite trading stars for prospects.
"We told ourselves we haven't played our best baseball yet, no matter who we had here," Robinson said. "It seems like it's finally starting to click and it's making the games a lot more fun."
Perez (9-10) won his fourth consecutive start. He had two runners aboard in each of the second and third innings, but escaped both situations and cruised from there. He allowed seven hits, struck out three and didn't walk a batter.
"They're an aggressive hitting team," Perez said. "I tried to throw pitches for groundballs. This is a game you have to fight and compete for."
The Angels opened the series as a hot team on the move. The opened the series having won nine of 11 and briefly held the second wild-card spot, but they lost three of four to the Rangers to fall a half-game behind.
"Nobody's looking back," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Nobody was going into this series thinking, `OK, we came off a good trip.' Those guys beat us.
"We need to swing the bats consistently. On the mound we did OK. We need to just get back at it tomorrow. Guys are playing hard, are playing well. This series they took from us."
Perez threw 73 strikes in his 99 pitches. Robinson's two-run homer in the third provided all the offense he would need, but Mike Napoli added a solo shot in the fourth. It was Napoli's 27th home run.
One night after Tony Barnette eared his first career save for Texas, it was Ricardo Rodriguez's turn. The 24-year-old right-hander coolly retired the Angels in order in the ninth.
"I try to do my job in any situation they put me in - five, six, seven, any inning," he said. "I'm trying to do the same. I don't try to be nervous and show emotions."
The Angels are built around superstar Mike Trout, and by his lofty standards, he is in a minor slump. Trout went hitless in three at-bats Thursday with a walk and is in a 3-for-23 skid.
"Mike is still having some good at-bats, but like anyone in this game, sometimes they're not going to fall in," Scioscia said. "He's taking his walks. They pitched him tough. Mike is fine."
Rangers: Struggling RHP Tyson Ross (3-3, 7.04 ERA) has lost his spot in the rotation and been moved to the bullpen. Ross missed the first 2½ months of the season following surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and then almost three weeks with a blister. RHP Nick Martinez is expected to take his spot in the rotation.
Angels: 3B Yunel Escobar (oblique) is scheduled for another workout day in Anaheim on Friday before likely going on a rehab assignment. ... OF Ben Revere fouled a ball off his left knee Tuesday, bruising it enough that he has yet to return. Scioscia said the foul did not hit the knee cap but the muscle directly above it.
Rangers: Plan to call up Martinez (3-4, 5.38) from Triple-A Round Rock to start series opener Friday in Oakland. Martinez was scratched from his Thursday start for Round Rock, where he is unscored upon in his last four starts. RHP A.J. Griffin was scheduled to start Friday, but has been pushed back to Sunday.
Angels: RHP Parker Bridwell (7-1) will try to return to form Friday when he opens a three-game series at home against the Astros. He allowed four runs on six hits in five innings Sunday in Baltimore, but the Angels are 11-1 in games he's started.