ANAHEIM, California — Wandy Rodriguez gave the Texas Rangers exactly what they were looking for in his first American League start. He pitched long enough to hand a lead over to the bullpen before rookie Keone Kela made a costly mistake.
David Freese hit a two-run homer off the right-hander, just in time for Garrett Richards to get credit for his first victory since last August, and the Rangers were beaten 3-2 by the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Rodriguez allowed a run and five hits with five strikeouts in five innings. The 36-year-old lefty escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second when he retired Erick Aybar on a line drive to center field after giving up two walks and then hitting Freese with a pitch.
"It was a veteran outing by a guy that hadn't been on a major league mound in more than nine months," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Wandy gave us five innings and pitched through traffic for most of the night, but he moved the fastball around and competed very well. He pitched on the corners, used his breaking ball when he needed to and kept some pretty good hitters off balance."
Rodriguez's contract was purchased from Triple-A Round Rock before the game. He made his first appearance in the majors since May 21, 2014, with Pittsburgh.
Right-hander Logan Verrett was designated for assignment to make room for Rodriguez, released by Atlanta at the end of spring training.
The Angels got their only run against Rodriguez in the fourth on Chris Iannetta's sacrifice fly. They nearly tied it in the fifth, but center fielder Leonys Martin raced toward the warning track and made a leaping catch to rob Albert Pujols of extra bases with the speedy Mike Trout at first base.
"There were some balls that we ran down and we made some plays for him. But for the most part, I was pleased with how he went about it," Banister said. "He had to rein the fastball back in and get it in the strike zone."
Kole Calhoun greeted Kela (0-1) with a leadoff single in the seventh and was erased on a fielder's choice grounder by Trout, who stole second and was nearly doubled off the bag after Kela caught Pujols' liner and tried to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play. Freeze then drove a 3-2 pitch to left-center for his fourth homer.
Richards (1-1) pitched seven effective innings for his first win since injuring his knee last year. He allowed two runs and three hits, struck out five and walked three in his fifth straight win over the Rangers.
The victory was the right-hander's first since Aug. 15 last season, when he beat the Rangers 5-4 in Texas. He sustained a season-ending knee injury five days later while covering first base at Boston.
"He's a premium pitcher," Banister said. "He's a high-velocity guy that has plus movement on his fastball, a solid slider, and that made it very challenging on the hitters. But he made it very challenging on the hitters last year until he got injured."
Richards walked the Rangers' eighth and ninth hitters, Jake Smolinski and Carlos Corporan, to open the third inning and both scored after Martin advanced them with a sacrifice bunt. Mitch Moreland delivered the first run with a groundout, and Prince Fielder singled off Richards' glove to bring home the other.
Joe Smith pitched a perfect eighth and Huston Street worked a hitless ninth for his sixth save. Street walked two, but ended the game by retiring Elvis Andrus on a grounder with runners at the corners.
Most of the pregame chatter in both clubhouses revolved around reports that troubled outfielder Josh Hamilton is expected to be traded from the Angels back to the Rangers in the next few days.
"If it does happen and he becomes a teammate, we're going to support him no matter what," said Adrian Beltre, who joined the Rangers the year after Hamilton was the AL MVP. "We'll do our best to help him think about baseball and not be a distraction. We know Josh and who he is. We hope he's healthy, his mind is in a good position, and he has the support he needs to be the productive Josh that we all know he can be — the Josh that helped us go to the World Series in 2011. Who doesn't need a guy like Josh Hamilton? There might be a little more media craziness or more questions about why he's here, but we'll deal with it."
Rangers: RHP Colby Lewis will be starting on six days' rest for the second straight time, after losing 3-1 to Seattle's Felix Hernandez last Saturday. Lewis was 1-4 with a 9.35 ERA against the Angels last season.
Angels: LHP C.J. Wilson was pushed back two days because of elbow stiffness. He allowed eight runs in 12 1-3 innings over his last two starts — losses to Kansas City and Houston — after pitching eight innings of two-hit ball in his season debut at Seattle. Wilson spent his first seven big league seasons with the Rangers.