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LAA@TEX: Angels lose on Soto's walk-off homer

ARLINGTON -- Ernesto Frieri leaned back on the folding chair in front of his locker at Rangers Ballpark late Monday night and stared off into space, images of A.J. Pierzynski's game-tying homer and Geovany Soto's walk-off shot seemingly still burning a hole in his head. Tommy Hanson came by with quick words of encouragement, Michael Kohn provided a pat on the back as he walked by and Mike Scioscia stepped out of an office to offer some non-verbal encouragement.

Frieri just sat there -- dejected, miffed and inconsolable. He had blown five other saves in his one-and-a-half-year stint as the Angels' closer, but he had never taken a loss this hard.

"It's tough, man," Frieri said after the 4-3, walk-off loss he created with a couple of ninth-inning solo homers. "We've been struggling, and then I went out there and gave up the game. That's what makes this game so frustrating sometimes. Just when we need to win, and we need that victory to calm down, we got the loss again.

"I missed a lot of spots today. I left the ball a little bit up, in the middle, and they put good swings on the ball. I got hit really hard."

The result hit even harder, because it gave the Angels four straight losses to teams that are way ahead of them in the American League West -- three to the A's, one to the Rangers -- and because Jered Weaver deserved to win after pitching seven dominant innings of one-run ball.

The Angels are now eight games under .500 -- the furthest from the even mark they've been by this point since 1999 -- and fell to 14 games back of first place after Oakland's victory.

"Games now are very important," said Weaver, who has given up one run in his last 21 2/3 innings to drop his ERA to 2.84. "We're trying to do what we can do to battle and win games and it's just not working out for us. But we're going to keep going out there and fighting, scratching and clawing and try to get back in this thing. It's getting down to the nitty-gritty here where we have to start putting something together if we're going to get ourselves back in this thing. We can't let games like this slip away."

The Angels built a 3-0 lead off new Rangers starter Matt Garza in the fifth, thanks to a solo homer by J.B. Shuck -- his first in 357 career plate appearances -- and a two-out, two-run, opposite-field single by Josh Hamilton.

In the eighth, the Rangers made it a one-run game off Dane De La Rosa when Elvis Andrus singled, stole second, advanced to third on Hank Conger's errant throw and scored on a sac fly by Ian Kinsler, whose sixth-inning RBI single snapped two scoreless-innings streaks: 26 for the Rangers' offense and 19 2/3 for Weaver.

Leading off the ninth, Pierzynski got a 1-2, low-and-in fastball from Frieri and unleashed a towering fly ball that easily cleared the short right-field fence. Three batters later, Soto got a 3-2, chest-high fastball and lofted a fly ball that barely landed inside the left-field foul pole, snapping the Rangers' four-game losing streak and helping them improve to 57-49.

"I was just hoping it stayed fair," Soto said. "I was praying to God it stayed fair. When it stayed fair, I was the happiest guy on the field."

For Frieri, there was only heartache.

He was making his first appearance in five days and struggled with command for the third straight outing. Against the Twins on Tuesday, Frieri gave up five runs -- four on a grand slam -- in the 10th inning. The following day, he walked two batters, but got the save thanks to an impromptu double play on a popup that was dangerously close to being called an infield fly.

In that three-game span, he's retired four of the 15 batters he's faced.

"I've been getting hit with all my pitches," Frieri said, his ERA now at 4.06. "I don't know what's going on. I've been throwing my slider more often. ... I don't know. I've been working all year, trying to hit my spots. That's something I need to do -- make my pitches and hit my spots. If I don't do that, I'm going to get hurt. And obviously tonight, I didn't do that."

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