ANAHEIM -- Rangers starter Martin Perez was terrific for six innings and his offensive teammates took advantage of some breaks to score enough runs.
But the Rangers' first victory without Nelson Cruz belonged to a pair of veteran setup relievers working out of bases-loaded jams in the seventh and eighth innings. The work of right-hander Jason Frasor and left-hander Neal Cotts was what allowed the Rangers to hang on to a 5-2 victory over the Angels on Monday night.
"They got us out of some jams," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "Obviously, Frasor and Cotts getting out of those bases-loaded jams and giving up just one run ... that was the game. Martin pitched great and we scored some runs, but the game was won by the relievers."
Perez won for the first time since July 9 and the Rangers have won seven of their last eight, a streak that started when they swept the Angels last week in Arlington. With Oakland off on Monday, the Rangers are now two games behind in the American League West.
Perez, going up against Angels right-hander Jerome Williams for the second straight start, went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks while striking out seven. Perez allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings in his last start against the Angels on Wednesday but did not get a decision.
"He's certainly been more under control and hasn't let the game get too quick," manager Ron Washington said. "He's executing pitches, getting ahead early in the count and throwing his changeup for strikes."
Williams was almost as good as his last start when he held the Rangers to one run in 7 2/3 innings. But, holding a 1-0 lead, he ran into some bad luck in the fifth inning that had implications later in the game.
"He was tough with his sinker," outfielder David Murphy said. "He's got really good stuff. He did a great job last time. This time we did a great job of taking advantage of some pitches."
Murphy led off the fifth with a walk, Jurickson Profar doubled with one out and Engel Beltre was hit by a pitch. That loaded the bases, but Williams struck out Leonys Martin for the second out. The Rangers were in danger of letting the inning slip away without scoring before Williams bounced a wild pitch with Elvis Andrus at the plate, allowing Murphy to score.
Andrus then lofted a popup into shallow right field between second baseman Howie Kendrick and right fielder Collin Cowgill. Both went hard after the ball and Kendrick won the race while Cowgill slid beneath him.
But Kendrick tripped over Cowgill as he made the catch and went tumbling to the ground. The ball popped loose from his glove, both runners scored and Andrus had his first triple since May 18. Kendrick, who was hitting in the third spot in the Angels' order, also had to leave the game with a hyperextended left knee.
"It's hard to see guys play their heart out and get hurt like that," Williams said. "Howie made that play and he got hurt. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball falling down, but that's all I can ask him to do. He plays hard, plays all out, it's unfortunate."
The Rangers scored two more in the sixth on a home run by Adrian Beltre and an RBI single by Profar. That gave them a 5-1 lead, but there was plenty of drama left even though Perez had retired 16 of his last 19 batters going into the seventh.
"The last three innings are the toughest one of the ballgame," Washington said.
Erick Aybar led off the seventh with a double and Chris Nelson walked. Perez struck out Chris Iannetta, but J.B. Shuck walked to load the bases. That was it for Perez as Frasor was summoned from the bullpen with Cowgill at the plate. Frasor got Cowgill to hit a grounder to Profar at short, but the Rangers could get only one with a force at second and Aybar scored.
That left runners at the corners with two outs and Mike Trout coming up. But little-used, light-hittting infielder Tommy Field was on deck in place of Kendrick, so Washington ordered an intentional walk of Trout.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia countered with Kole Calhoun, a left-handed power hitter who is hitting .346 (9-for-26) with two home runs since being called up last week to take Albert Pujols' spot on the roster. Calhoun hit a hard line drive to right but right at Murphy for one of the two biggest outs of the night.
"I wasn't going to let Trout get a base hit and I wasn't going to let him hit a three-run home run," Washington said. "I wasn't going to let him swing the bat. I didn't care who they brought up. I wasn't going to let Trout get them back in the ballgame. If Calhoun beats us, you live with that."
Cotts took over in the eighth and the Angels again were able to load the bases after Mark Trumbo reached on an error by Adrian Beltre. Cotts retired the next two hitters but Murphy dropped Nelson's pop in shallow right trying to make a sliding catch and Cotts walked Iannetta. That brought up Shuck, who crushed one to deep right that Murphy caught right up against the wall.
"Bases loaded late ... there's probably five at-bats where we hit the ball really hard with runners in scoring position and nothing to show for it," Scioscia said. "Kole Calhoun hit a rocket that just missed splitting the gap. I thought with guys in scoring position we squared some balls up and didn't have much to show for it. That definitely could have put the game in our favor."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.