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Angels fall to Rangers and into tie with Astros for AL West lead

Not that the Angels like it, but the Houston Astros' trade for Scott Kazmir paid off so well, so soon.

On Thursday, the Astros acquired Kazmir, to form a dynamic duo with Dallas Keuchel atop the Houston rotation. On Friday, in his Astros debut, Kazmir threw seven scoreless innings.

And, later Friday, the Angels lost. After 12 days of sole possession of first place in the American League West, the Angels fell back into a first-place tie with the Astros.

It's only one day, of course. But the Angels' 4-2 loss to the Texas Rangers only underscored the need the Angels themselves acknowledge: They need a bat, like the Astros needed an arm.

The Josh Hamilton reunion went splendidly, at least for Hamilton. He scored two runs; the Angels scored two. He got one extra-base hit; the Angels got one extra-base hit. He got booed, but not mercilessly, and his team won.

"They booed me when I'm here," Hamilton said, "they boo me when I'm not here."

Hamilton was banished from Anaheim after two seasons in which he was often injured and largely ineffective, and after an arbitrator ruled that his winter relapse in his battle with substance abuse did not merit a suspension under baseball's drug policy.

The fans in left field, he said, were not rude.

"It was nicer, just normal taunting," he said. "So it didn't get too rough out there."

Hamilton was supposed to be the Angels' left fielder this season. In 22 games for the Rangers this season, Hamilton is batting .250 with three home runs. Not great, but better than what the Angels have gotten from their left fielders.

"He just looks like Josh," Mike Trout said. "He's in a new place. I'm sure he's happy over there. We've turned the page over here."

Trout hit his 29th home run, tying teammate Albert Pujols for the major league lead.

While Kazmir is an ace, the Angels' pitcher Friday was Nick Tropeano, the No. 8 starter on their spring depth chart. Tropeano, in a spot start, gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings. The Angels called him up from triple-A Salt Lake on Friday afternoon; they sent him back to Salt Lake after the game ended Friday night.

The Angels are in an uncomfortable place with Tropeano. They could offer to include him in a package for that bat they so desperately need, but his value might not be very high; it took Tropeano and catcher Carlos Perez for the Astros to get backup catcher Hank Conger from the Angels last winter.

And the Angels' fragile minor league system still needs pitching depth at the upper levels, so the value of Tropeano might be greater to the Angels than to most other clubs.

Daniel Robertson, who batted ninth for the Angels on Friday, played left field. Matt Joyce played there Thursday. Rookie third baseman Kyle Kubitza could get a shot there. And, because the Angels' left fielders have the lowest on-base-plus-slugging average of any major league team, that is the position targeted for improvement before next week's trading deadline.

That is Hamilton's old position.

Up next

Hector Santiago (7-4, 2.30 ERA) faces the Rangers' Yovani Gallardo (7-9, 2.91) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Angel Stadium. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1220.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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