Rangers hang on to beat Anaheim

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Hitting a go-ahead grand slam in his first game since May 16 wasn't quite on a par with his homer that won the All-Star game in 2003. But Hank Blalock's teammates celebrated in the dugout as though it were Game 7 of the World Series.

Blalock stunned reliever Scot Shields with a drive into the in the right field seats with one out in the eighth inning, leading the Texas Rangers to an 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night.

"When Hank hit that home run, I pretty much felt that we were going to win that game," Rangers closer C.J. Wilson said after his second shaky save in two days. "It was so deflating for them to see Shields come in and just kind of fall apart like that, because he's such a consistent guy."

Shields (3-5) gave up a leadoff single to Michael Young, then walked Brad Wilkerson and hit Frank Catalanotto with a pitch before Blalock connected for his fifth career grand slam and first this season.

Blalock, a two-time All-Star, had been limited to 39 games this season because of a condition called "thoracic outlet syndrome" which affects the nerves that pass through the shoulder into the neck. He had surgery May 21 to remove a rib, which helped alleviate the problem.

"I felt weird up there the first time," Blalock said, "but I think what helped me was that I got to see a lot of my pitches my first couple of times up and see some different stuff."

Technically, Blalock has four home runs in his last five games -- with quite a bit of separation between the last two.

"It was my fourth at-bat, so I was able to get some of the rust out before that," Blalock said. "To be able to contribute like that after not being able to play for 3 1/2 months, that was really exciting for me -- not as exciting as the All-Star home run, but it was a close second. I came into the dugout and everyone was pumped up for me. It was a lot of fun."

Shields retired one batter and was charged with all four runs. Since the All-Star break, the Angels' set-up man has a 10.00 ERA.

"I didn't get the job done," Shields said. "I couldn't throw strikes, I couldn't throw my breaking ball, and that's what I get. The breaking ball was the right pitch to throw to Blalock, but I couldn't afford to get behind 3-2, so I tried to throw some low fastballs and get a double play."

Teammate Garret Anderson doesn't agree that Shields' 317 appearances and 498 2-3 innings pitched since the start of the 2003 season have caught up to him.

"There's no answer to that," Anderson said. "You can't say that kind of stuff. It's a theory. It's not fact. I mean, everybody has their struggles. None of us are immune to tough times on the field. You've just got to be mentally strong, keep moving forward and not worry about what's happened -- because you can't change that."

Texas Rangers' Sammy Sosa looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning of their Major League Baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2007, in Anaheim, Calif.

Given an 8-5 lead to work with in the ninth, Wilson gave up three hits, including an RBI single to Robb Quinlan. With runners on second and third and one out, Reggie Willits lined out to third. Wilson then hit Orlando Cabrera with a pitch to load the bases, and walked Vladimir Guerrero to force in a run.

That brought up Anderson, who hit a three-run homer in the ninth Saturday against Wilson on a fastball. This time, Wilson caught Anderson looking at a 1-2 slider to end the game. The save was his 10th in 11 chances.

"I'm trying to pitch away from his hot zone, and today I was just able to execute a little bit better of a pitch," Wilson said.

Wes Littleton (3-1) pitched two hitless innings, keeping the Angels 6 1/2 games ahead of Seattle in the AL West. The Mariners lost for the ninth straight time.

Angels starter John Lackey was in line for a victory before Shields' implosion. The right-hander, looking for his 17th victory, pitched 6 2-3 innings and allowing two-run homers by Ian Kinsler and Wilkerson. Lackey struck out eight and walking two.

The Angels grabbed a 5-2 lead in the fifth with three runs against rookie Kason Gabbard. Quinlan, starting at first for the first time since Aug. 23 because a left-hander was throwing, sparked the rally with a single that snapped an 0-for-19 drought and kept the inning alive with a hard takeout slide at second base that prevented a double play.