ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nothing against Salt Lake City, Utah, but C.J. Cron would be happy never to go there again.
In the opener of a critical three-game series against the Texas Rangers Friday, Cron provided all the offense in a 5-2 victory at Angel Stadium.
Cron drove in five runs with a single, double and triple, leading Los Angeles to a big win that allowed the Angels to creep closer to the Rangers, who are holding onto the American League's second wild-card spot.
The win moved the Angels to within 2 1/2 games of the Rangers, while the Minnesota Twins, losers on Friday, remained 1 1/2 games back.
"We need to start winning ballgames," said Cron, who started as the designated hitter and batted in the cleanup spot. "Whatever it takes, I'm on board. We needed the runs, it's big for us."
While much of the Angels offense has struggled over the last month, Cron has been a bright spot. With his three hits Friday, he's hitting .341 (31 for 91) with 17 RBIs over his last 25 games.
"My timing is good, I'm playing basically every day now so I'm definitely more comfortable in the box than I was earlier," Cron said. "Being sent down was good for me, getting a hundred or so ABs down there, and coming back and feeling comfortable.
"You definitely down want to be down there, that's for sure; this is where you want to be. I took it as a way to get better, get my at-bats so when I got the call I could help the team."
Cron had a two-run single in the third inning, an RBI triple in the fifth and a two-run double in the seventh, all three hits coming with two out. The first two hits came off Rangers starter Martin Perez (2-4), who got the loss after giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in six innings.
"We've had our challenges with C.J. this year," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He showed up big with the three two-out hits, two of them with two strikes. Other than that, we felt like we pitched everybody else good."
Angels starter Garrett Richards (13-10) got the win, but he had to work for every out it seemed. He gave up two runs on five hits, five walks and a hit batter in six-plus innings. The Rangers had a runner in scoring position against Richards in all but one inning.
"In the sixth there were the first signs of him losing his release point," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had trouble getting the ball into the zone."
Richards worked his way out of trouble in the early innings before the Rangers scored in the sixth, but just barely.
The Rangers had the bases loaded with one out when Rougned Odor hit a fly ball to left field. Left fielder Shane Victorino made the catch in foul territory, then threw to the cutoff man, shortstop Erick Aybar.
Aybar quickly threw to second base, catching first baseman Mitch Moreland drifting too far off the bag. Second baseman Taylor Featherston made the tag just as designated hitter Prince Fielder, who tagged from third, slid across the plate.
Scioscia asked for a replay review, claiming the out at second came before Fielder crossed the plate. But after a review that lasted several minutes, the call stood and the Rangers cut their deficit to 3-1.
An RBI triple by Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo in the seventh inning cut the Angels' lead to 3-2, but Cron's two-run double in the bottom of the inning gave the Angels some breathing room.
Like Cron, Choo, who hit for the cycle on July 21, had a single, double and triple in the game, but the Rangers offense couldn't get much going, stranding 10 runners on base and going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"It was a challenge for us tonight," Banister said. "Couldn't get the big hit when we needed it and push the runners along. A couple situations where we got doubled up. Other than that it felt like we played a clean game, just made a few mistakes to Cron."
Angels relievers Trevor Gott (seventh inning), Joe Smith (eighth) and Huston Street (ninth, 32nd save) closed it out.
NOTES: Angels 2B Johnny Giavotella, out since Aug. 20 with a previously undisclosed medical condition, has been diagnosed with fourth nerve palsy, a condition that causes weakness or paralysis of muscles in the eye and causes double vision. It's unclear if he'll return this season. In 119 games, Giavotella has hit .265 with 21 doubles 40 RBIs and 47 runs scored. ... Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland has a team-high 11 game-winning RBIs, tied for ninth best in the American League. ... Angels CF Mike Trout began the night homerless since Aug. 7, a stretch of 25 games without one. ... Rangers RF Shin-Soo Choo went into the game hitting .309 (42 for 136) with five homers, 11 doubles and 22 RBIs in 39 games since the All-Star break.