J.C. Ramirez provided a much-needed boost in the Texas heat on Sunday afternoon to the Los Angeles Angels' beleaguered starting rotation and struggling offensive attack.
Ramirez outpitched All-Star Yu Darvish and Albert Pujols hit his 604th career home run as Ramirez and three relievers held the Rangers to two hits in a 3-0 win.
Ramirez (8-7) allowed both hits in his six innings. Bud Norris earned his 13th save with a perfect ninth inning in only the second shutout of Texas this season, the first since mid-April. The Angels went into the game last in the American League in total bases.
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Ramirez made his 16th straight start since mid-April after his previous 108 career appearances in the major leagues were in relief. The 28-year-old was moved into the starting rotation after Los Angeles lost multiple starters to injury.
"We're not going to reach our goal unless these guys go out and give us an opportunity to win like J.C. did this afternoon," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
Ramirez credited a switch to a four-seam fastball from a two-seamer following a recent talk with pitching coach Charles Nagy for his Sunday success.
Ramirez's plan for the All-Star break? "I'm going to Vegas for a couple of days," he said. "I need my mind to get away from baseball."
Darvish (6-8) gave up two runs while pitching 7⅓ innings. He allowed three hits, fanning six and walking four in a start that cost him a potential appearance in Tuesday night's All-Star Game. Darvish last week complied with a club request not to pitch in Miami two days after starting.
"We ran into a guy today who was on top of his game," Texas manager Jeff Banister said. "Darvish threw the ball extremely well. He made two mistakes."
Pujols hit a two-out home run on a curveball into the Angels' bullpen in left-center in the first inning. He took a .206 career batting average vs. Darvish in 34 at-bats into the game. Three of his eight career hits off the four-time All-Star have been homers.
The Angels added a run in the fifth inning after Ben Revere stole third base following Darvish's throw behind him to second base. Juan Graterol followed with a sacrifice fly.
Ramirez ends the season's first half with a major league career-high 103 innings. His previous high as a reliever was 78⅔ innings last season, which was divided between the Angels and Cincinnati.
The Rangers are 1-8 in Darvish's last nine starts. Texas has scored 15 runs in his eight losses this season.
"It's part of baseball," Darvish said through an interpreter. "I don't really think about it."
The Rangers end the first half 43-45, 16½ games out of first place in the AL West. They were 42-46 two years ago at the break but only three games out. They grabbed the division lead on Sept. 15 and won by two games.
The Angels are 45-47, 19-20 without reigning league MVP Mike Trout in the lineup. They've been within three games of .500 since April 23, when they were 8-12.
Angels' RISP Drought Ends
Andrelton Simmons' ninth-inning double that scored pinch-runner Eric Young from second base ended Los Angeles' 0-for-10 streak with runners in scoring position during the series. In Friday night's 10-0 Angels loss, they failed to get a runner beyond first base.
Rougned Odor went 0-for-4, ending a career-long 10-game hitting streak. . The Angels will have six off days during the first 35 days of the season's second half after having only six to date in 98 days.
Rangers: RHP Keone Kela (shoulder soreness) can come off the disabled list on Monday and is expected to rejoin the club on Friday.
Angels: Trout is scheduled to make rehab starts on Sunday and Monday with high-A Inland Empire with the Angels hoping to return him to their active roster on Friday.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (4-6) will open the three-game series at Kansas City on Friday.
Angels: No starter has been announced for Friday's home game vs. Tampa Bay.