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Rangers, Angels still in AL playoff chase

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Parker Bridwell will take the mound for the Los Angeles Angels Saturday night against the Texas Rangers, smack dab in the middle of a playoff push.

And it's difficult to imagine which was more unlikely -- that the Angels are still in the mix for a playoff berth, or that Bridwell is an important part of the club's starting rotation.

In fact, Bridwell, 26, has been a key part of the Angels' push, getting a chance because of the club's troubles with the starting rotation, from injuries to a lack of production.

He was acquired for cash considerations from the Baltimore Orioles in April and spent the first two months of the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. He didn't make his first start with the Angels until May 30.

He's gone 7-2 with a 3.94 ERA in 17 games (16 starts), which is more than the Angels could have hoped for, despite a recent proverbial bump in the road. In consecutive starts Aug. 30 and Sept. 4, both against Oakland, Bridwell got hammered.

He gave up 13 runs and 13 hits in just six innings, lasting only three innings in each start. He bounced back in his most recent start, allowing two runs in six innings against Seattle last Sunday, a start more reflective of his season.

It was an important performance for a young pitcher like Bridwell, finding a way to bounce back from adversity.

"I know exactly what I was doing wrong now," Bridwell said. "Go back and watch film, do my routine, I'm not going to change anything. Go about my work the same way, and I'll be better."

Bridwell, who has never faced the Rangers, is matched up against Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels, a pitcher who knows all about big games. He was the World Series MVP for the Phillies in 2008 when he was just 24.

Hamels has been solid this season, going 10-3 with a 4.05 ERA in 20 starts, including going 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four starts against the Angels.

While the Rangers still have hopes of making the playoffs as a wild card, they will rely on the experience of guys like Hamels, and also Adrian Beltre, who has returned to the lineup despite a hamstring injury that was expected to keep him out to the rest of the season.

Beltre suffered a Grade 2 strain of his left hamstring on Aug. 31, an injury that typically requires a recovery time of 4-6 weeks. Instead, Beltre returned as a pinch hitter less than two weeks later on Wednesday, then was in the lineup as the designated hitter on Thursday and Friday, going a combined 1 for 6. He is likely to remain the DH and not play in the field the rest of the way.

"Obviously the situation is not ideal for us," Beltre told mlb.com. "There's no tomorrow. There's no waiting any longer. A lot of my teammates are playing with injuries, so why can't I?"

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