By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- Texas' Josh Hamilton was the runaway favorite to win the AL MVP in the season's early going, and was still the front-runner at the All-Star break.
In just over a week's time, however, the leading contender - or contenders - might go to a pair of Los Angeles Angels.
Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout look to continue their hitting tears and help the Angels pull within four games of the AL West-leading Rangers on Saturday.
Opening this series six games out of first place - its largest deficit of July - Los Angeles (51-43) beat Texas (55-37) 6-1 in Friday's opener. Jered Weaver pitched seven innings to earn his 12th victory, while Trumbo hit his 27th homer and Trout added his 15th.
"We're only five games back now, so it's real big," said Trout, who scored a run in his 12th straight game, one off the AL rookie record. "Every game against them down the stretch is going to be big. We're going to play them a lot, so we just have to keep making plays."
Jim Edmonds has the Angels franchise record with a run scored in 13 straight games in 1995, and no AL rookie had scored a run in 12 consecutive contests since Don Lenhardt, who shares the record with 13 straight, did it in 1950.
Trout, the AL leader with a .354 average, is batting .425 during a nine-game hitting streak, and is 3 for 6 with a homer and double against probable starter Yu Darvish (10-6, 3.96 ERA). The leadoff hitter also has three home runs in his last four contests, which is nothing compared to Trumbo's recent run.
The Angels' cleanup hitter has seven homers in his last 11 games, and is now within one of the AL lead behind Chicago's Adam Dunn and the slumping Hamilton. Trumbo could have trouble tacking on to his homer total, though, given that he is hitless in five at-bats against Darvish.
Hamilton was hitting .404 with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs in his first 35 games but has cooled off considerably. He is 5 for 35 (.143) with two home runs and four RBIs in his last 10 contests, and following Friday's game, his batting average fell to .299, the first time all season it dipped below .300.
"A little bit of a slide? How about the last month and a half?" Hamilton asked. "I mean, you've got periods like this during the season, and if you don't, you've had a season that you might not ever have again. But I'm starting to come out of it."
The 2010 AL MVP, however, could have another tough time at the plate Saturday, considering he is hitting .194 in 31 career at-bats against scheduled starter Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.60).
Santana, hasn't been on top of his game lately, either, going 0-1 with a 10.95 ERA in his last three starts with the Angels losing each. Against Detroit on Monday, he gave up four runs - two earned - with eight hits in six innings of an 8-6 loss, but didn't get the decision.
Despite effectively shutting down Hamilton, Santana hasn't enjoyed much success against the Rangers, going 1-3 with a 6.19 ERA in his last five starts in the series.
Darvish, who is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in his two starts against the Angels, allowed seven runs, eight hits and four walks in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-0 loss to Seattle on Saturday. He dropped to 1-5 with a 6.00 ERA in his last six road starts. One of those outings came at Angel Stadium on June 2, when he yielded three runs and six hits while striking out seven in 6 1-3 innings of a 3-2 loss.
Updated July 21, 2012