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Hamilton confident he'll play in ALDS opener

Angels outfielder slated to face live pitching

Hamilton confident he'll play in ALDS opener

  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton said he was confident he'll play Thursday when the Angels open the American League Division Series in Anaheim.

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Hamilton was slated to face live pitching Tuesday, one day after his muscle spasms disappeared following his batting, throwing and running sessions.

"If it goes good, good to go," Hamilton said.

Hamilton has played in just one game since Sept. 4, sidelined first by right shoulder soreness and then by right rib and chest pain. He also said he expected to play in the outfield and not as the designated hitter.

The 33-year-old outfielder had just three at-bats over the season's final 24 days, and he has received 12 shots to counter the pain.

"There's a time to be smart and patient, and there's a time to just do what you've got to do to get back and play and help the team," Hamilton said.

Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Halos to carry at least 12 pitchers

Scioscia yet to announce Game 2 starter

Halos to carry at least 12 pitchers

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ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the club would carry at least 12 pitchers in the American League Division Series, which opens Thursday in Anaheim.

Typically, teams carry 11 pitchers into a five-game playoff series, but the Angels will carry an extra arm (or two) because of a lack of starting pitching depth, partially due to Matt Shoemaker's lingering oblique injury.

"Some of it is certainly where Matt is, but I think we're just trying to piece together the 27 outs you're going need to win a game," Scioscia said. "We probably have more depth to be able to do that."

Jered Weaver will start Game 1 for the Angels, but Scioscia did not announce who would start Game 2 or whether the team would use three or four starters in the ALDS. Left-handers C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago have been inconsistent in September, while Shoemaker hasn't pitched in a game in two weeks.

Shoemaker threw an up-and-down bullpen session Tuesday.

The bullpen has been one of the main reasons for the club's turnaround, even turning every fifth day into a 'pen day to make up for Garrett Richards' season-ending injury. In the second half, Angels relievers had the highest WAR and lowest FIP in the AL.

Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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What a difference a year makes for Angels' Dipoto

GM chats with MLB.com about rebounding from '13, relationship with Scioscia, these playoffs

What a difference a year makes for Angels' Dipoto

At this time last year, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto didn't even know if he'd still have a job.

The Angels were winding down an 84-loss season, extending their string of playoff absences to four years despite a bevy of high-priced commitments by their competitive owner, Arte Moreno. Meanwhile, reports swirled about a fracture in Dipoto's relationship with longtime manager Mike Scioscia, and the prevailing sentiment was that one of them had to go.

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  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

Now, Dipoto presides over an Angels team that finished with baseball's best record and locked up home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The GM's 2015 option was picked up nearly three months ago, and he and Scioscia are doing just fine, thank you very much. Winning, as they say, cures all.

Before the American League Division Series kicks off from Angel Stadium on Thursday, Dipoto sat down with MLB.com for some questions.

MLB.com: What would you identify as the biggest reason your Angels went from spending only two days above .500 in 2013 to finishing 2014 in first place?

Dipoto: It's probably two-fold, makeup being first and foremost. To me, for winning teams, it always comes back to makeup. We have really good makeup. It's a resilient bunch. They believe in one another, they work hard, they play hard. The group we had last year -- very solid makeup, not nearly as resilient as this group here.

No. 2 is that until we got into August [when both Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards suffered season-ending injuries], we didn't have to deal with any debilitating injuries. We were without Kole [Calhoun] for about six weeks, we were without Josh [Hamilton] for close to two months, and in the time those guys were out, others stepped up.

MLB.com: You're going into the postseason with home-field advantage throughout October, but you'll also enter the ALDS without knowing what you'll get out of Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) and Hamilton (right chest/ribcage). What do you think of your chances?

Dipoto: With Josh having missed these last three weeks, we understand how he can help us, and we also understand that he might not be there, so we're prepared either way. In Shoe's case -- he's done a lot better. Right now, he's in a pretty good place. ... We're very confident right now that he's going to be able to do the things that he does and has done, and we'll take it day by day.

But I think as important as anything, we're a team. It's a 25-man team. No matter what has happened, whether it be when Kole and Josh were hurt earlier in the season, or when Garrett and Tyler went down late, this team just finds a way to pick it up. Sometimes it comes from areas you wouldn't expect, and sometimes the guys that lead the charge are the guys that have been around. One through 25, they've just done a great job.

MLB.com: What was key to you and Scioscia finally getting on the same page this offseason, and how did that help set the foundation for this season?

Dipoto: It took time. Mike and I have always gotten along very well. There have been times when we like each other more than others, like any other two people who work together. He's had 15 years of success here, been outstanding for this organization, and he had a template of things that he believed in, and I came in with my own ideas. And it takes time to work those things out. Here we are in our third year together, and I think we've done a nice job in covering up the gaps that existed previously. Some of that was just in our belief, some of that was with what we were trying to get to, some of it was simply better communication.

MLB.com: We've seen several franchises -- most recently the Phillies -- eventually crumble under the weight of large contracts. How do you keep that from happening with the Angels, while also competing for championships each season?

Dipoto: One of the tricks is to make sure you achieve good balance. The revenue streams from Arte allow us to do some things with our payroll that many teams just don't have the ability to do. It's one of our strengths; we might as well use it. But we also have to be aware that we need other guys to develop on the other side of the roster -- the young player, the 0-3 [years of service time] who's still in that $0.5 million earnings range -- because they offset the cost of the guys on the top side.

We understand what our model is and we have to stay with that model. We can't be pushed in the direction to do something north, where we have to go above and beyond. I've heard the comment, 'We're all in.' We're all in every year, but we have to do it with good balance. And that means we have to be a little bit more aware of how our roster ages. I think one of the great misconceptions is that we have an old and aging roster. We really don't. ... We have a nice balance on our team.

MLB.com: In tune with that, how important was it to stay away from the big free-agent contract in the offseason?

Dipoto: Critically important. We needed to stay flexible; we needed to create flexibility on our roster. It was really hard for us to trade Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos. They're quality guys, they're quality Angels, born and bred through the system, and good players. But we needed to turn them into functional and flexible pieces -- guys that fit our roster better. And in the case of Fernando Salas and Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, that can give us that affordable, controllable, optionable pitching that we just didn't have.

MLB.com: Looking ahead, you're not going to have Skaggs next season because of Tommy John surgery, and Richards is going to be coming off major knee surgery. How much urgency will you put on acquiring starting pitching via free agency this offseason?

Dipoto: The well isn't dry. We have Jered Weaver, we have C.J. Wilson, we do have Garrett Richards -- who we anticipate coming back -- we have Hector Santiago, we have Matt Shoemaker. We do still control the rights to Wade LeBlanc once this season is done. We do have Cory Rasmus next year, we have Drew Rucinski. Right there, we're eight deep. So right now, we don't view it as critical, or some game of Russian Roulette we're getting ready to play in the free-agent market.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Much of Angels' playoff history written this century

Much of Angels' playoff history written this century

The Angels' history can be traced back to the club's origins in 1961, but their postseason past -- and success -- can largely be attributed to one man: Mike Scioscia.

The franchise missed the playoffs in its first 18 seasons of existence and appeared in just 16 playoff games in the 39 years before Scioscia became the Angels' manager prior to the 2000 season. But in Scioscia's 15 seasons (counting this one), he has led the Angels to the postseason seven times, including six American League West crowns.

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  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

Scioscia guided the Angels to their only World Series title in 2002, and he captured three straight division championships from 2007-09. When the Angels open the AL Division Series on Thursday, it will be their first postseason appearance since that run.

Here is how the Angels have fared in the postseason:

Last time they made the playoffs: 2009. Riding, a high-powered offense and talented rotation to 97 regular-season wins, the Angels ran away with the AL West, topping the Rangers by 10 games. Their division championship capped an eight-year span when they made the playoffs six times.

Last time they won a playoff series: 2009. The Angels had never beaten the Red Sox in a playoff series -- and had been eliminated by them in both 2007 and '08 -- before sweeping Boston in the ALDS. The starting rotation allowed just 11 hits in 20 2/3 innings in the ALDS, but the Angels stumbled in the AL Championship Series, losing to the eventual World Series champion Yankees in six games.

Last time they won the AL: 2002. Facing the Twins in the ALCS, the Angels dropped a one-run decision in Game 1, but rebounded to win four straight games by outscoring Minnesota 28-10 to win the pennant. Adam Kennedy earned ALCS MVP honors by hitting .357 and blasting three home runs.

Last time they won the World Series: 2002. San Francisco and Anaheim staged a World Series for the ages -- complete with pitcher's duels, offensive explosions, late-game comebacks and even a Game 7 -- before the Angels broke through for the franchise's only World Series championship. Due to their lockdown bullpen and dynamic offense, this season's Angels have drawn comparisons to the '02 club.

Overall DS record: 3-3 in six series, 10-12 in 22 games, .455
Overall LCS record: 1-5 in six series, 13-19 in 32 games, .406
Overall WS record: 1-0 in one series, 4-3 in seven games, .571
Overall postseason record: 5-8 in 13 series, 27-34 in 61 games, .443

Matthew DeFranks is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MDeFranks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Constructing a winner: Angels

How Anaheim used the Draft, trades, free agency and international signings to build its playoff team

Constructing a winner: Angels

At the 2011 Winter Meetings, little more than a month after becoming the Angels' general manager, Jerry Dipoto shocked the baseball world, closing out the Meetings by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in one day.

At the time, the Angels had missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, leading to Dipoto's hiring. Suddenly, they seemed ready to take the American League by storm.

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  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

The Angels' rise atop the standings this season didn't quite happen that way, however. Even with Mike Trout's historic rookie season in 2012, the Angels came up short of the playoffs again. That winter, they made another big splash in free agency, signing Josh Hamilton. But, again, the Angels missed the playoffs in 2013.

Following that disappointment, the Angels had a much quieter offseason. There were no big-ticket free-agent signings. Dipoto executed a few trades, acquiring third baseman David Freese and pitchers Fernando Salas, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs.

Instead of a new acquisition, the Angels' most significant move of the offseason may have been signing Trout to a contract extension in March that would keep him in Los Angeles through at least 2020.

Dipoto said that while he doesn't view himself as a high-stress person, having Trout locked into the lineup for several more years has put him at ease.

"He's a great player, and justifiably the front-runner for the MVP this year," Dipoto said. "I think it's a contract that rewards him for what he's done and what we anticipate him doing moving forward. And it rewards us with control that we feel is a cornerstone building block for this organization."

After those minor tweaks, the Angels have played like the team many expected after their shocking Winter Meetings haul in 2011. They captured the AL West title, posted the best record in the Majors and have returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Even with Trout and several other All-Stars on the roster already, Dipoto still had a lot of work to do to build the 2014 Angels. Here's a closer look at how the roster was built.

HOMEGROWN
Player, how acquired, year:
Erick Aybar, Int'l sign, 2002
Kole Calhoun, Draft, 2010 (8th)
Hank Conger, Draft, 2006 (1st)
C.J. Cron, Draft, 2011 (1st)
Kevin Jepsen, Draft, 2002 (2nd)
Howie Kendrick, Draft, 2002 (10th)
Mike Morin, Draft, 2012 (13th)
Matt Shoemaker, Undrafted free agent, 2008
Mike Trout, Draft, 2009 (1st)
Jered Weaver, Draft, 2004 (1st)

Due in part to the fact that the club surrendered three high Draft picks after signing Pujols, Wilson and Hamilton, the Angels' farm system is perceived as relatively weak in the industry. No Angels prospect was ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list this spring, and left-hander Hunter Green, their top pick in the 2013 Draft, spent his first full professional season on the disabled list.

  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
But the Angels were still able to tap into their farm system for a few players critical to their success this season. First baseman Cron, the 17th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, showed off his prodigious power in the big leagues and right-hander Morin, the Angels' 13th-round pick in 2012, became a steady presence in the bullpen.

The Angels' most impactful rookie, however, wasn't even drafted. Right-hander Matt Shoemaker signed with Los Angeles as an undrafted free agent in 2008 after finishing his career at Eastern Michigan. This year, he has developed into one of the team's best pitchers. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 136 innings, helping to make up for some of the injuries sustained by the team's other starting pitchers.

Dipoto said that while the Angels' prospects haven't gotten as much outside recognition in recent years as other teams, he is still pleased by what the farm system has been able to contribute.

"I just ran through a variety of names -- Shoemaker, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Hank Conger -- that have come through our system," Dipoto said. "One of the things that we're proud of is that we have presently developed a really balanced group of Major League role players, Major League relievers."

TRADES/WAIVERS
Player, year, acquired from:
Gordon Beckham, 2014, White Sox
Collin Cowgill, 2013, Mets
David Freese, 2013, Cardinals
Jason Grilli, 2014, Pirates
Chris Iannetta, 2011, Rockies
Cory Rasmus, 2013, Braves
Fernando Salas, 2013, Cardinals
Hector Santiago, 2013, White Sox
Huston Street, 2014, Padres
Joe Thatcher, 2014, D-backs

One of Dipoto's biggest challenges this year was to essentially rebuild the Angels' pitching staff on the fly. Starters Garrett Richards and Skaggs both suffered season-ending injuries and the bullpen saw significant turnover, most notably when Ernesto Frieri lost his job as closer due to ineffectiveness.

While some of Dipoto's solutions came from within the organization, several were acquired in a series of trades. Frieri was dealt to the Pirates in June in exchange for Grilli, who had also struggled as a closer this season, but rebounded with the Angels. A week after the Frieri-Grilli swap, Dipoto acquired another reliever, sending Minor Leaguers Zach Borenstein and Joey Krehbiel to the D-backs in exchange for left-hander Thatcher and outfielder Tony Campana.

And Dipoto still wasn't done. Two weeks later, he found a new closer, acquiring All-Star Street from the Padres in a six-player deal. That trade cost the Angels four of their top prospects, including shortstop Jose Rondon, who had represented the club in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game just seven days before the deal.

The moves worked. Street kept pitching like an All-Star for the Angels, giving manager Mike Scioscia a reliable closer. The rest of the bullpen followed suit, become one of the club's strengths in the second half of the season.

When he was identifying potential trade targets, Dipoto said he prioritized relievers with good control who would attack hitters.

"This year, we just got a point where strike throwing became a critical thing for us," Dipoto said. "If you're not going to come out here and command the strike zone and give us a chance to win games, then we needed to make a change. And that was the biggest change."

An added benefit of the deals was to bring more veterans to the bullpen. Grilli and Street have both pitched high-leverage innings in the playoffs, which they will be asked to do again this season.

"They were good, veteran players who understood how to play the game, how to go about their jobs," Dipoto said. "And I think they really helped take the culture in our clubhouse to another level, most notably Jason Grilli and Huston Street, what they bring."

FREE AGENTS
Player, year:
Josh Hamilton, 2012
Wade LeBlanc, 2014
Albert Pujols, 2011
Joe Smith, 2013
C.J. Wilson, 2011

Dipoto's first two offseasons as GM were characterized by the big splashes on the free-agent market.

In contrast, there were no blockbuster deals this year. Instead, the two free agents from last year's class that have had the biggest impact on the Angels have been pitchers Smith and LeBlanc. They lost LeBlanc on waivers to the Yankees in June, but he was back with the Angels two weeks later after being released.

Smith has been one of the constants in the back end of the team's bullpen, even successfully serving as the Angels' closer for a while. LeBlanc, like Shoemaker, has provided critical depth to a pitching staff that has been beset by injuries.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fans can vote for Aaron Award nominee Trout

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Fans can vote for Aaron Award nominee Trout

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Shoemaker, Hamilton progressing

Shoemaker, Hamilton progressing

ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton (right chest/rib cage) and right-handed pitcher Matt Shoemaker (left oblique) continued to progress during optional workouts at Angel Stadium on Monday, according to the club's public-relations department.

Hamilton, who took soft-toss swings in the batting cage after four days off from hitting on Sunday, hit on the field, threw long toss and ran the bases.

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"Everything went well," vice president of communications Tim Mead relayed, adding that Hamilton will repeat the program on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Shoemaker, who threw between 30 and 40 pitches in a bullpen session Sunday, played light catch, as expected. If he feels good on Tuesday, the 28-year-old rookie will throw off the mound once again.

Shoemaker said Sunday that he's "very" confident he can start for the Angels in the American League Division Series, which begins Thursday at Angel Stadium against the winner of the AL Wild Card Game between the A's and Royals on Tuesday. Hamilton, however, has to see some velocity and swing without pain before being deemed ready.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels wrap up regular season, focus on ALDS

Angels wrap up regular season, focus on ALDS

SEATTLE -- The Angels' 2014 season ended the same way it began, with a three-game sweep at the hands of the division-rival Mariners, but the significance was drastically different.

When the Angels opened with three straight losses at home, it was deemed by naysayers throughout the country as the beginning of yet another underachieving season that would yield a fifth straight playoff absence. But when they lost, 4-1, at Safeco Field on Sunday, it was merely the conclusion of a regular season that finished with the game's best record, the end of an afternoon that paved the way for postseason baseball.

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"We're excited to get started," said center fielder Mike Trout, who finished what is expected to be an American League MVP season with a .287 batting average, 36 homers, 111 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.

"I think everybody's pretty excited for the postseason," right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "These last few days, leading into the last weekend and trying to get healthy, games have been a little different. It's going to be nice to get that intensity and get into some games that are going to be big for us."

The Angels finished with 98 wins, third-most in club history and two shy of the franchise record, set in 2008.

On Thursday they'll either host the Royals or the A's in the AL Division Series.

"It's going to be a fun game to watch," Trout said of an AL Wild Card Game that will kick off from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City at 5:07 p.m. PT on Tuesday. "Both teams are great."

The Mariners began the day with hopes of forcing a tiebreaker, needing a victory and an A's loss, and Felix Hernandez did his part, giving up just one hit in the first five innings and striking out seven of his first 10 batters. But the A's pulled away in the ninth in Arlington, ultimately beating the Rangers, 4-0, and eliminating the Mariners from postseason contention while their game with the Angels was in the bottom of the fifth.

A crowd of 40,823 groaned, then paid its respects to Hernandez, who was taken out after retiring his first batter in the sixth, and second baseman Robinson Cano, removed for defense two batters later.

"It was disappointing, because our guys really poured their hearts into this season," Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon said. "But the A's deserved what they got. We just came up a little short."

Reliever Cory Rasmus gave up one run in the first three innings and the Mariners pulled away with a three-run fourth, when Joe Thatcher gave up an RBI double to Michael Saunders and Yoslan Herrera served up a two-run single to Mike Zunino. Hector Santiago, who could start Game 4 of the ALDS, and Wade LeBlanc, who is on the postseason bubble, each finished with two scoreless innings.

The Angels' only run came off the bat of John McDonald in what could end up being his final at-bat. With two outs in the top of the ninth, McDonald lined a double to left field off Danny Farquhar, ensuring that the Angels would go an entire season without being shut out on the road.

McDonald is one of 73 position players since 1901 to get an at-bat at age 40, and though he's open to playing next season, he kept the ball, just in case teams don't call this winter.

"You never know," McDonald said, fighting back tears at his locker postgame. "You have to be prepared. That's what my career has been about more than anything."

The Angels finished their season with a club record for the fewest errors by their defense (83) and the most strikeouts by their pitching staff (1,342). They led the Majors in runs (773), ranked second in run differential (plus-143) and locked up home-field advantage throughout the postseason for only the second time in team history.

Their season finished with seven losses in a span of 10 games, but they had already locked up the division by then. And, as manager Mike Scioscia said, "It all starts again on Thursday."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Shoemaker confident about ALDS; Hamilton less so

Shoemaker confident about ALDS; Hamilton less so

SEATTLE -- Matt Shoemaker threw a 30- to 40-pitch bullpen session at Safeco Field on Sunday morning and feels "very" confident he can start in the American League Division Series, barring an unforeseen setback.

Josh Hamilton spent time before the regular-season finale taking soft-toss swings in the cage, throwing long toss, doing some running exercises and tracking pitches during Shoemaker's session, but he will need to push it harder on Monday and Tuesday before knowing if he can play in the first round, which kicks off on Thursday.

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Hamilton, who will finish the season having played in just one of the Angels' final 22 games, didn't feel the spasm around his right chest/ribcage he did when he hit off a tee earlier in the week, a sensation that made it difficult for him to even breathe. But he finished his swing with two hands on the bat, which he never does in games.

  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

"I'm going to have to just swing," Hamilton said. "So tomorrow will be another big day."

Hamilton is slated to take batting practice on the field at Angel Stadium on Monday and Tuesday, and see some live pitching at some point before ALDS rosters are due on Thursday morning. Throwing is no longer an issue, his back no longer bothers him when he runs and the pain he felt while swinging on Sunday was tolerable.

"The pain isn't the issue; it's the spasm part of it," said Hamilton, who took four days off from striking a baseball because of those spasms. "As long as I can play and not spasm, I'll be fine. That means I have to get after it the next couple of days, push it a little bit, because I can't baby it, then get in the game Thursday and it happens."

Shoemaker, rehabbing from a mild strain in his left oblique since Sept. 15, played catch for six straight days leading up to his first bullpen session, gradually ramping up the intensity and the distance until taking part in an unrestricted long-toss session on Saturday.

The 27-year-old rookie threw all of his pitches on Sunday, finished throwing at full intensity and felt only "a touch" of tightness, which diminishes with each passing day.

"Hopefully, in a couple of days, I won't even feel it all," Shoemaker said. "I think that's a big possibility."

The next step for Shoemaker is to face hitters at Angel Stadium on Tuesday or Wednesday, then start either Game 2 or 3 of the ALDS. Asked if he's confident he'll start in the ALDS, he said, "Very much."

"Each day has felt better," he added. "This is the first time we got full intensity off the mound. We'll find out more tomorrow."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Scioscia not ready to reveal ALDS rotation

Scioscia not ready to reveal ALDS rotation

SEATTLE -- Mike Scioscia's pitching order for the American League Division Series is still up in the air following Jered Weaver, who will take the ball for Game 1 at Angel Stadium on Thursday.

C.J. Wilson is lined up to pitch Game 2 on five days' rest, and Matt Shoemaker could benefit from being backed up to Game 3 so that his strained left oblique has extra time to heal, but Scioscia wasn't ready to reveal anything prior to Sunday's regular-season finale.

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"With the year Shoe had, we have every bit of confidence he's going to pitch well," Scioscia said. "C.J.'s outing yesterday, combined with [seven shutout innings against the Mariners on Sept. 17], shows us he's very capable and comfortable to go out there and pitch. We'll eventually settle on a rotation that can get us to our goal. How it lines up, we don't really know."

  Date Time Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2 9 or 9:30 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 2 Oct. 3 9:30 or 10 p.m. ET OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS
Gm 3 Oct. 5 7:30 p.m. ET LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 4* Oct. 6 TBD LAA vs. OAK/KC TBS
Gm 5* Oct. 8 TBD OAK/KC vs. LAA TBS

Hector Santiago is the likely fourth starter, but Scioscia has left open the possibility of Weaver going on short rest to pitch Game 4, as well as starting Cory Rasmus in what would amount to a bullpen game.

Head-to-head matchups won't necessarily play a factor in the order, though it could affect some key bullpen decisions, Scioscia said. His potential rosters include an 11-man pitching staff, a 12-man pitching staff and a rare 13-man pitching staff. And since he doesn't have to turn in the official list to Major League Baseball until Thursday morning, he isn't tipping his hand.

"There are lots of things to consider," he said. "It depends on the health of guys and where they are. We're not going to have as much versatility in the rotation as we'd like. Right now we're trying to get a cohesive group of three guys ready to go."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kendrick cleaning up at cleanup

Kendrick cleaning up at cleanup

SEATTLE -- The Angels still can't be sure if they'll have Josh Hamilton for the postseason, but if the last three weeks are any indication, they'll be just fine at the cleanup spot.

Veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick has taken off since taking over for Hamilton in the vaunted No. 4 spot behind Mike Trout and Albert Pujols on Sept. 5. Though he went 0-for-2 in the regular-season finale, he'd entered the contest batting .413 with 18 RBIs and six doubles in 20 games in that spot, giving the Angels more production out of the cleanup spot than they've had all season.

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Said Kendrick, who is all but guaranteed to bat fourth in the American League Division Series: "[I'm] hitting the same way I would if I was batting fifth or sixth. I haven't tried to do anything different."

Maturity has kept him from changing his approach.

"A couple of years ago, yeah, it might have been different, and I probably would have treated it differently," he said. "Now I'm just looking at it as, 'They're not asking me to hit for power or anything.' I'm just going out and playing my game."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels denied chance to finish '14 with 100 wins

Angels denied chance to finish '14 with 100 wins

SEATTLE -- It wasn't that Grant Green made the wrong decision; it's that he didn't make his decision with enough conviction.

The score was tied at 1 in the bottom of the 11th, with runners on the corners, one out and a five-man infield drawn in at Safeco Field on Saturday night. Austin Jackson's grounder went right to Green, but instead of throwing home, the 27-year-old second baseman flipped to second for a potential inning-ending double play. But because the flip was wide, Jackson was able to beat shortstop Gordon Beckham's throw to first, giving the Mariners a 2-1 victory that kept their postseason hopes alive.

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"You have to be decisive," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He was a little indecisive. He kind of set his feet for home and then decided to go for two. That's what we talked about out there, on the understanding of trusting and committing to a play. Even though it might not be exactly the perfect play, commit to it, because you don't really have the time."

Now the first-place Angels don't have time to win 100 games.

Their second straight loss, and sixth in the last nine games, put them at 98-63, guaranteeing that they won't be the first team to notch triple-digit victories since the 2011 Phillies. The Mariners, meanwhile, gained a game on the A's and now need a win and an Oakland loss on Sunday to force a tiebreaker for the second American League Wild Card spot.

"We'll see what happens," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who will start ace Felix Hernandez against reliever Cory Rasmus in the regular-season finale. "All I know is we're still in the ring, still throwing punches."

The Angels mustered only a run on seven hits, and Scioscia rested six of his position players by the middle of the eighth inning. But C.J. Wilson ended his sluggish 2014 season on a high note, five days after giving up six runs and six walks in two-thirds of an inning against the A's.

The veteran left-hander -- and probable No. 2 starter in the AL Division Series -- gave up just one run in six-plus innings, scattering four hits, walking three and striking out two to finish the season 13-10 with a 4.51 ERA in 175 2/3 innings.

"I'm always trying to go out and pitch well; it's just a matter of making the right adjustment when things went wrong," Wilson said. "I had a couple of counts tonight when I got behind, and I made the right adjustments to get back in the count, get back in the strike zone. I was just trying to be efficient and challenge them to hit the ball tonight. I walked a couple of guys, but I wasn't erratic like I was the last start."

Wilson shut out the Mariners through the first six frames, then Logan Morrison lined a game-tying RBI double with none out in the seventh, minutes after the A's lost in Arlington, 5-4, to send 32,716 towel-waving fans at Safeco Field into a frenzy.

The Mariners (86-75) squandered several opportunities throughout the night, most notably against Jason Grilli with the bases loaded and none out in the ninth, but they finally broke through in the 11th.

"Any time you have an opportunity to win the ballgame and you don't, you're itching for another chance," said Jackson, whose lineout to right in the ninth ended the Mariners' threat. "We had a few opportunities there, and luckily, I was able to make contact and run as hard as I could. I kind of wanted to dive at the bag and grab it. Whatever it takes to get a win."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Grilli's Houdini act delays Mariners' celebration

Grilli's Houdini act delays Mariners' celebration

SEATTLE -- A packed Safeco Field was going nuts, and the Mariners were on the verge of keeping their postseason hopes alive through the final day of the regular season, but reliever Jason Grilli worked a Houdini act in the bottom of the ninth, forcing extras and delaying Seattle's celebration.

With the score tied at 1, the Mariners loaded the bases with none out on a single, a walk and a fielder's choice, which occurred when catcher Chris Iannetta's throw to third on a sac bunt was late. But Grilli recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Brad Miller and Chris Taylor with the infield in, then got Austin Jackson to fly out to escape the tough jam.

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Against Miller, Grilli spotted a borderline, full-count slider just high enough for a caught-looking strikeout. Against Taylor he used three straight fastballs to record the punchout. He started Jackson with three straight balls, then ran the count full and induced a lineout to right field.

"That's huge," said manager Mike Scioscia, whose Angels eventually lost, 2-1, when Jackson beat out a potential inning-ending double play in the 11th. "Grilli did a great job getting out of that."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pain-free swings a goal for Hamilton

Pain-free swings a goal for Hamilton

SEATTLE -- Josh Hamilton's availability for the American League Division Series could be determined by some Sunday-morning swings off a tee at Safeco Field.

That's what it's come to for the outfielder, who hasn't hit for four straight days because his backswing continues to trigger the stabbing pain near his right chest that makes it difficult for him to breathe. Hamilton has been limited to dry swings and cardio, though he threw for the first time in eight days on Friday and didn't feel any pain.

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Hamilton is still eyeing a return to the lineup for Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday, but he needs to clear several hurdles, the first of which is striking a baseball without pain.

"I have to do some things before I can even think about coming back," Hamilton said prior to Saturday's game against the Mariners. "I have to take [batting practice] and I have to [face pitching]. Tomorrow will be a big precursor, a telltale sign of whether it's going to respond or not, because the last two times I tried it off the tee, it's tightened up on me."

Hamilton, 33, has been limited to three at-bats as designated hitter over the last 23 days, a byproduct of pain that began near his right shoulder and now resides in the vicinity of his right chest/ribcage. When he took swings off a tee in Oakland on Monday and Tuesday, his chest "tightened up" and restricted his mobility for nearly an hour -- even though he took seven cortisone shots in his chest and back last Saturday.

"Feeling it is fine, when it stays like that or it lasts five or 10 minutes and it goes away -- that's cool," Hamilton said. "But I can't go out there and have one at-bat, two, three, and it turns into, 'I can't breathe,' and it's like that all night for an hour, hour and a half. So that's why we've taken it slower the last three or four days.

"I'll know tomorrow."

Who would have thought swings off a tee would be so important?

"I know," Hamilton said, shaking his head. "It's frustrating, man."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Encouraging news for Shoemaker on his birthday

Encouraging news for Shoemaker on his birthday

SEATTLE -- Right-hander Matt Shoemaker has been making steady progress since straining his left oblique 12 days ago, but Saturday was somewhat of a breakthrough.

Shoemaker, who turned 28 on Saturday, had an unrestricted long-toss session for the first time, then did some one-hop drills to simulate throwing on a downhill angle. If he feels good upon arriving at Safeco Field on Sunday morning, he'll throw his first bullpen session.

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"The tightness, soreness, whatever you want to call it, is just about gone," Shoemaker said. "It's there, but I've barely felt it. Each day it's drastically better."

Shoemaker has played catch for six consecutive days, gradually lengthening the distance and ramping up the intensity until early Saturday afternoon, when he backed up to roughly 200 feet with no restrictions.

If Sunday's bullpen session goes well, Shoemaker could face hitters during one of the workout days at Angel Stadium next week, then perhaps be lined up to start Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 5.

"With the way it's going," he said, "I've very optimistic."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Thatcher making his case for playoff roster

Thatcher making his case for playoff roster

SEATTLE -- Back in early July, the Angels sent a couple of prospects to the D-backs to get Joe Thatcher and address their need for a lefty specialist. But with the regular season down to its final weekend, Thatcher's spot on the postseason roster is very much in question.

And that's why his performance in the seventh inning on Friday, when he retired three straight Mariners lefties -- Dustin Ackley, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager -- was so important.

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"It was definitely a good outing for me; definitely something I felt like I needed," Thatcher said. "I'm glad it happened."

Thatcher, 32, missed 37 games from Aug. 3 to Sept. 12 while rehabbing a sprained left ankle and feels he's now "getting that little bit of sharpness back."

"I feel like I'm really close to being the player I need to be and being dominant again," he added.

Thatcher had a 2.63 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and an 8.33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 37 appearances on July 5, when the Angels sent outfielder Zach Borenstein and reliever Joey Krehbiel to Arizona in exchange for Thatcher and speedy outfielder Tony Campana.

In 15 games since joining the Angels, though, Thatcher has a 6.00 ERA, a 2.00 WHIP and a 1.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, with left-handed hitters sporting a .368/.435/.474 slash line in 23 plate appearances against him.

If Matt Shoemaker (strained left oblique) is healthy, the Angels could have 11 pitchers solidified for the postseason roster: Shoemaker, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago, Huston Street, Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Jason Grilli, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin and Cory Rasmus.

Thatcher could make the roster if the Angels go with a 12-man pitching staff, which is uncommon for a five-game series but may make sense for a team that has several rotation questions.

Performances like Saturday's help make his case.

"I can't worry about that," he said. "As soon as you start worrying about that kind of stuff, you lose focus on what you need to do. I know what I can do. Whatever they decide is best for the team moving forward is good by me."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Replay turns safe call into double play for Angels

Replay turns safe call into double play for Angels

SEATTLE -- Replay helped the Angels turn an inning-ending double play on Saturday, when umpires overturned an initial safe call at second base after manager Mike Scioscia's challenge.

With one out and a runner on first, Chris Denorfia hit a chopper to the right side that created a bang-bang play at second base. Second baseman Howie Kendrick quickly flipped the ball to shortstop Erick Aybar, who dragged his right foot across the bag and then threw to first, but second-base umpire Chad Fairchild ruled Logan Morrison safe at second, surprising several Angels players, who were ready to jog to the dugout.

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Replay showed that Aybar's foot touched the right side of the bag just before Morrison went in, and the Angels ultimately moved to 21-for-36 in having calls overturned.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels homer twice in loss after securing top seed

Angels homer twice in loss after securing top seed

SEATTLE -- The regular season isn't over and their goals are much bigger, but the Angels locked up the first seed on Friday -- thanks to an Orioles loss that occurred before their 4-3 loss to the Mariners -- and that means something.

Last year the star-studded team spent only one day above .500.

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"We definitely turned the page real quick," Mike Trout said. "It was a team effort."

Despite the loss, the Angels are 98-62, already a 20-win improvement over 2013, and can become the first team to win 100 games since the 2011 Phillies if they win on Saturday and Sunday.

The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays, 4-2, about a half-hour before the first pitch at Safeco Field, and now the Angels -- a Major League-best 52-29 at home this season -- will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason while entering October with baseball's best record for only the second time in their history.

"It's a good position to be in," Friday starter Jered Weaver said. "It's going to be warm in Southern California. We'll just sit back and witness who we've got. It's going to fun, man. It's been a while since we've had a playoff atmosphere, and we're really looking forward to it."

Weaver was tagged with his ninth loss, but he's still tied for the American League lead in wins, with 18.

He served up three homers, setting a career high with 27 allowed this season, but he finished with a 3.59 ERA in 213 1/3 innings in 34 starts, his highest output since 2011.

"My goal is to take the ball every fifth day, and obviously last year I wasn't able to do it," said Weaver, limited to 24 starts in 2013 because of a broken left elbow and 30 in 2012 with a back injury. "For the most part, I've felt good all season. It's been a process to get back to where I need to be. It's kind of been a battle for me this year, but I've kind of made the most of it."

Weaver had the Angels in a four-run hole against Hisashi Iwakuma through five innings, but they nonetheless had the potential tying run in scoring position in the ninth.

Kole Calhoun (17) and Trout (36) hit back-to-back homers off Iwakuma in the sixth, marking the sixth time the Angels have done that this season. Erick Aybar added a one-out RBI double against former teammate Fernando Rodney in the ninth to make it a one-run game, but after David Freese flied out to right and Brennan Boesch grounded out to short, the Mariners -- needing back-to-back wins and back-to-back losses by the A's to force a tiebreaker -- lived to fight another day.

"Listen, like I told my players, we're getting to play our 161st game, and it's a very meaningful game," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I think that's pretty [darn] good. We've had a heck of a year. We'll see what happens."

The Mariners (85-75) embarrassed the Angels to start the season, sweeping a three-game series at Angel Stadium and outscoring them by 18 runs in the process. The naysayers were already piling on, predicting that the Angels were on their way to a fifth consecutive postseason absence despite a big payroll. And now here they are, guaranteed to finish with baseball's best record.

"It's not easy to do," said manager Mike Scioscia, who plans to start his everyday players the next two games but will try to get them off their feet at some point. "I think it's a great accomplishment for those guys in the room."

Albert Pujols, seated in the very corner of the room, didn't want to hear it.

The regular season isn't over, and there's more work to be done.

"I hope these guys don't get caught up in that," Pujols said. "If they're caught up in having a better record, then they're in the wrong clubhouse. Our goal is to try to win a championship, for our fans and for our organization."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Trout stuns ex-Angel Morales with sick catch

Trout stuns ex-Angel Morales with sick catch

SEATTLE -- Mike Trout can dunk a basketball, and sometimes, as he did on Friday night at Safeco Field, he proves it on a baseball field.

Former Angels and current Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales hit a long line drive to center field to lead off the eighth inning of Seattle's 4-3 win. Trout drifted to his left, watched the ball tail to his right, leaped high into the air, reached to the other side of his body and somehow hauled in the catch.

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Morales looked stunned as he jogged back to the dugout.

Manager Mike Scioscia said it "looked like a video game."

"He hit it pretty well," Trout said. "The only chance I had was to jump, and I just put my glove up and caught it."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pitching in ALDS a real possibility for Shoemaker

Pitching in ALDS a real possibility for Shoemaker

SEATTLE -- Matt Shoemaker continues to make progress as he recovers from a strained left oblique, an injury that has clouded his availability for the American League Division Series over the last 11 days.

The 27-year-old rookie played catch for the fifth consecutive day prior to Friday's series opener against the Mariners, backing up to about 150 feet after throwing from 110 feet during the off-day on Thursday.

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Shoemaker said that his encouragement level "has been much better, because it feels much better, and it keeps getting better and better."

Pitching coach Mike Butcher feels "very confident" that Shoemaker can be available for the ALDS, though he'll have to throw an aggressive bullpen session before then.

"He's getting better every day," Butcher said. "Just keep progressing on an everyday basis, see how he feels every day coming into it, then once we get to a point where he feels like he's getting after it on flat ground, maybe do some one-hop drills, get him on the mound, and that's really the big task right there."

Josh Hamilton -- limited to one game since Sept. 4 due to ailments in his right shoulder, chest and ribcage -- did some defensive work before Friday's game and will resume swinging a bat on Saturday.

Hamilton isn't expected to play this weekend, but he could see some pitching either in a simulated game in Anaheim or in the instructional league in Tempe, Ariz., next week.

"He has to see some velocity, whether it's done in a simulated environment, just to get some perspective of velocity," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He did it in Spring Training when he pulled his calf muscle -- got into a game and was very comfortable. He will see velocity in some form."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels walk away from stadium deal with Anaheim

Angels walk away from stadium deal with Anaheim

SEATTLE -- Frustrated by a lack of progress more than a year after both sides ratified an agreement, the Angels ended talks with the city of Anaheim regarding a new lease for their 48-year-old ballpark.

In a letter submitted on Friday, the Angels stated that they will no longer engage in negotiations over a framework deal that was approved by the Anaheim City Council on Sept. 4, 2013, a deal that involved owner Arte Moreno paying an estimated $150 million to refurbish Angel Stadium in exchange for a $1-per-year lease on the surrounding parking lot.

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Team spokeswoman Marie Garvey said that the Angels are "going to look at all our options" for a potential new ballpark, while adding that staying in Anaheim is a possibility.

"We stand ready to continue the discussions," interim Anaheim city manager Paul Emery said in a statement. "We believe the Angels will not find a better location, better city partners and, most of all, better fans than here in Anaheim."

The Angels have had several discussions with the city of Tustin, which will hold a closed session on Tuesday to further discuss a potential home for the Angels. The proposed Tustin site would be about eight miles southeast of Anaheim, on land formerly used as a Marine Corps base, according to the Los Angeles Times, which mentioned a site adjacent to the Great Park in Irvine as another alternative.

Another option is located in downtown Los Angeles, on a site adjacent to the Staples Center that is currently proposed for Farmers Field.

"We're looking at all our options," Garvey said, "but our preference is Orange County."

The Angels' lease expires in 2029, but they can walk away at any point from October 2016 to October 2019 with one year's notice. Asked if there is a deadline for finding a long-term destination, Garvey declined to go into specifics, saying, "We have time."

Negotiations had been held up because Anaheim mayor Tom Tait believes the surrounding land is too valuable for Moreno to have developmental rights at such a low price. Tait has suggested that the team and the city split revenues from the surrounding land and commissioned an appraisal of the land in May -- with and without the Angels in it.

The Angels' letter says that the club is "hereby electing to terminate" the framework deal as well as "negotiations pursuant to it," effective in 30 days.

"Our goal from Day One was to ensure a high-quality fan experience well into the future," Garvey said in a statement. "We have spent a lot of time on this MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], and after 12 months, we feel our best course of action is to dissolve this non-binding agreement. We have always appreciated the council members' support for this MOU. We will continue to look at all our options as we determine our next steps."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tickets for potential ALCS games go on sale Oct. 1

SEATTLE -- Tickets for a potential American League Championship Series at Angel Stadium will go on sale Wednesday, Oct. 1, beginning at 10 a.m. PT, the team announced Friday.

Tickets will be available at Angels.com and through Ticketmaster phone lines, at 714-663-9000. There will be no tickets available at Angel Stadium or any Ticketmaster Ticket Centers. Fans will be limited to a maximum of four tickets per game, per household.

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The Angels entered a season-ending weekend series against the Mariners needing one win or one Orioles loss to lock up home-field advantage throughout the postseason. If that ends up being the case, and they get past the AL Division Series, ALCS games in Anaheim would take place Oct. 10 and 11 for Games 1 and 2, and then Oct. 17 and 18 for Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Trout thrilled to see heroics of childhood hero Jeter

Trout thrilled to see heroics of childhood hero Jeter

SEATTLE -- Mike Trout was very distracted at dinner on Thursday.

With the Angels off, Trout's eyes were glued to his smart phone, which was tuned into Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium. Trout, deemed by many to be the next proverbial "face of baseball" after Jeter retires, wasn't going to miss his childhood hero's eventual walk-off single.

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"When Baltimore hit those homers to tie it [in the top of the ninth], I knew he was coming up next with a chance to hit a walk-off," said Trout, who grew up a Phillies fan but had Jeter posters in his room in Millville, N.J. "Everybody was calling it. I wouldn't expect anything less from him. Unbelievable way to go out. I think everybody got goose bumps and chills watching it."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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As playoffs near, Trout not changing his game

As playoffs near, Trout not changing his game

They've called him the next Derek Jeter and the best since Mickey Mantle. But consider the acrobatic catches, the prolific power, the dynamic speed, the custom-made Nikes and that killer smile, and perhaps you'll stumble upon an even better comp for the early stages of Mike Trout's burgeoning career: Ken Griffey Jr.

"Oh, we don't discuss those things," Griffey said, smiling at the thought but dismissive of the notion. "He's growing into who he is, and I'll leave it at that. That's the one thing I learned at an early age -- just go out and have some fun."

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Trout is having a blast this year, even as the scrutiny intensifies and the expectations escalate, because his exploits are now the fabric of a playoff-bound Angels team. A week from Thursday, the American League Division Series will begin in Anaheim, and baseball fans all over the country will finally get a glimpse of the game's best all-around player on its grandest stage.

Trout will do his best to block all of that out.

"You can't get out of your game, try to do too much," Trout said. "Ever since I got brought up, it's been a lot of pressure. But once the game starts, you just go out there and play."

Some would argue that this has been Trout's worst season, but few would say he isn't the AL MVP -- and that's about as indicative of his success as there is.

Trout's slash line was .324/.416/.560 from 2012-13, as he finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in the AL MVP Award vote both times. This year, it's .290/.380/.563. He's hit 35 homers -- after notching 30 in 2012 and 27 in '13 -- and driven in a career-high 110 runs, after collecting 83 in '12 and 97 in '13. But his stolen-base numbers have fallen from 49 to 33 to 16. And he leads the AL with 181 in strikeouts after punching out no more than 139 times his previous two seasons.

Some would say it's a relatively down year, while others -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia chief among them -- would simply call it a different one. Few, however, would argue with the following point:

"I don't think there's much doubt, even talking with other managers, that Mike's not only the MVP of our league but also the best player of our league," Scioscia said. "I think he's certainly gone out and captured that award."

Trout leads the Majors in WAR for the third straight year, even though defensive metrics haven't been favorable to him this season. He leads the AL in runs scored (114) and RBIs, and he's tied for second with the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista in OPS (.943). Since 1900, only four players -- Mel Ott, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx and Ty Cobb -- have created more runs than Trout through their age-22 seasons.

"Media makes him out to a darn superhero, you know," Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said. "And to still come out, and have the season that he's had and kind of live up to everything, it's pretty special."

But who is Trout, exactly?

The sample size is pretty substantial now, but his age is still so tender and the 2014 season has been so different. Are his rising strikeout totals and shrinking stolen-base numbers merely a part of baseball's cyclical nature, as Scioscia attests? Or are Trout's talents transitioning him into a middle-of-the order run producer who will consistently put up big power numbers but eventually won't be much of a threat to run?

Hitting coach Don Baylor still sees a 40-40 season in Trout's future, saying: "He's got that in his range if he wants to do it."

Griffey doesn't believe there's a trade-off.

"Mike's going to do a number of things," he said. "The power numbers just come because you're not swinging at those pitches that you can't drive. You just learn your swing."

Trout is swinging at a career-low 22.4 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone this year, but he's been susceptible to the rising fastball. He's batting .336 on anything around the middle of the plate or below it and only .083 on pitches in the upper third of the zone.

"You want to shrink them, but it's just the way it's been going this year," Trout said of the strikeouts, now three shy of the franchise record set by former Angel Mark Trumbo last season. "I'm chasing too much. But you can't be worrying about striking out. It's just the way the game is."

Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, one of Trout's closest confidants on the team, sees Trout's oft-scrutinized strikeout and stolen-base numbers as signs of an innate ability to mute the outside noise.

At the plate, Trout isn't changing his approach because he fears a rising strikeout total.

"You don't see him just swinging wildly and thinking, 'Oh, I've struck out three times; I better not strike out a fourth time and just put it in play,'" Ebel said. "He still has the same approach -- look for a pitch, drive it up the middle."

On the bases, Trout picks his spots and doesn't force the issue, a big reason why he's only been caught stealing 12 percent of the time throughout his career.

"There's times he could steal a bag and maybe the time wasn't on his side; he recognizes that," Ebel said. "Sometimes when a kid gets a green light, he's all anxious, he wants to go. Mike, that's the part he's really grasping and learning. That's what's good about Michael. He understands."

Ebel's perception points to a widely held belief in the Angels' clubhouse: If Trout doesn't go on a tear within the small sample size of a singular postseason series, it won't have anything to do with pressure.

Few disregard pomp and circumstance like the Angels' center fielder.

"In one ear, out the other," as shortstop Erick Aybar described it.

"People don't understand, just on a daily basis, what he goes through," catcher Hank Conger said. "Whether it's signing for fans, dealing with media or whatever, just the stuff that goes on day to day -- and for him to put that aside once the game starts, to really try to focus as a 23-year-old, it's unbelievable."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hamilton plans to be ready to play in ALDS

Angels slugger leaning toward resting during series in Seattle this weekend

Hamilton plans to be ready to play in ALDS

OAKLAND -- Josh Hamilton has no doubts about being able to play in next week's American League Division Series, but the Angels' outfielder is leaning toward not playing in the season-ending series in Seattle this weekend to avoid a setback and get some extra rest for the postseason.

"I can just use the extra days and then play," said Hamilton, who has played only once in the last 20 days due to ailments in his right AC joint, right shoulder, right chest and right rib cage. "I know your guys' thing is, 'Well, he hasn't had any at-bats, how's he gonna feel?' It doesn't really matter.

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"I'm just going off past experiences. I've been through it before, missed a whole month of September, came back and played in the playoffs, did well. So, who knows what's going to happen?"

That was 2010, the year Hamilton was eventually named the American League's Most Valuable Player. He suffered two fractured ribs in a collision with the outfield wall, missed 24 games, came back with three regular-season games left, batted .111 in the ALDS and then was named MVP of the AL Championship Series.

"I'm still not totally ruling out [playing in Seattle]," Hamilton said. "Option's still there. We just don't want to have any setbacks. Doesn't hurt to breathe anymore, though."

Hamilton took some swings on Monday and Tuesday, took the day off to get treatment on Wednesday, will continue to work out in Seattle over the weekend and may see some pitches in a simulated game at Angel Stadium early next week. He's hardly thrown since first hurting his AC joint on Sept. 4, but the 33-year-old doesn't believe he'll be limited to designated hitter in the first round.

"Not really," said Hamilton, batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games. "I've been throwing all year, so two or three weeks is not going to bother that. It's just different when the playoffs get here, man."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Hal Bodley

Angels, Orioles looking great for different reasons

Angels, Orioles looking great for different reasons

It seems utterly foolish, if not stupid, to pick against the Angels as baseball's postseason is poised for its unpredictable October run.

The Angels, the best team of the 30 on paper, have it all: A vaunted rotation led by Jered Weaver, rookie Matt Shoemaker and C.J. Wilson, though Shoemaker is uncertain because of a mild left oblique strain.

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There's the offense powered by certain-to-be American League MVP Award winner Mike Trout, who's driven in 110 runs and blasted 35 homers. Albert Pujols is not far behind with 28 homers and 105 RBIs. And, assuming he's healthy enough for the postseason, Josh Hamilton.

Closer Huston Street has saved 17 of 19 games with an impressive 1.71 ERA.

As an aside, I believe the affable Trout is my choice to take over the feel-good "face of baseball" that Derek Jeter has so ably owned.

Pulling this all together is Halos skipper Mike Scioscia, longest-tenured manager in the Major Leagues and no stranger to postseason pitfalls.

It's not surprising that the Angels, who trailed first-place Oakland by four games on Aug. 10, have gone 30-12 since then, compiling the best record in the Majors and breezing to the AL West title. The Athletics, now relegated to an AL Wild Card berth, are looking up, 11 1/2 games back.

Yes, the Halos have all the pieces necessary to play in the World Series for the first time since 2002, when they disposed of the Giants in seven games.

But that's on paper.

Just like the pitching-rich Dodgers, led by 21-game winner Clayton Kershaw, the toast of Hollywood.

Folks on the West Coast are already salivating about the possibility of an Angels-Dodgers World Series.

That said, if there is such a thing, I believe the Orioles have been playing like a team of destiny.

Baltimore has shrugged off the critical losses of catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado to injuries, not to mention the 25-game suspension of slugger Chris Davis, who will miss the first eight games of the postseason, assuming the O's go that far.

Buck Showalter is my choice for the AL Manager of the Year Award because he's been able to convince his players they could overcome potentially crippling adversity. The Orioles responded by winning the rugged AL East for the first time since 1997.

Unsung players such as Steve Pearce and Caleb Joseph believed in their skipper's words and performed accordingly.

You have to root for the O's because they're baseball's best story heading into the postseason.

"When you want something as bad as this group does ... they're very mature about what they're in the midst of," Showalter says. "They don't take anything for granted. I can't say I've always felt that way, but with this group I do."

The Orioles live by the home run (they've hit 205), with the late offseason addition of designated hitter Nelson Cruz the key. He leads the Majors with 40 homers and has driven in 108 runs. Center fielder Adam Jones has 27 homers and 93 RBIs. Davis had 26 homers at the time he was suspended.

"I didn't expect 40, the number," Cruz told MLB.com. "I think the aim for any player is to stay healthy, play as many games as he can, stay on the field. That was my main goal, to try and stay healthy, to try to put up numbers. I was able to put up the numbers. ... My main concern was to stay healthy."

Among the top teams, O's pitching has been suspect, but with Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Wei-Yin Chen, it will stand up well in the postseason.

Closer Zach Britton has saved 36 of 40 games and put up a 1.70 ERA. When you consider the path the Orioles have taken, they have to be a team of destiny.

Former Indians and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has guided six teams to the postseason, all as division champions.

"The last time the Orioles were in the playoffs, in 2012, they lost the Division Series to the Yankees," he says. "It was a close series, and that experience will be so important this time around."

Showalter has refused to let the O's coast after clinching the division title. Manuel says that is extremely important.

"When a team is playing well and has momentum, you cannot let up," he says. "Rest is good, but you don't want too many off-days before the playoffs begin. You definitely don't want to be off four or five days."

Winning in the postseason, Manuel adds, is all about strong pitching.

"In a short series, that's the most important, but you have to play good defense to support that pitching," Manuel says. "Young teams that have never been there before usually have a tougher time. In 1995, the Indians went to the World Series, but it was the first time for most of our players, and just getting there was the key. Atlanta had won all those divisions and it gave them the edge. We were just happy to be there.

"In Philadelphia, we clinched our division in 2007 and were swept by the Rockies. But the next year, we came back with that experience behind us and won it all."

Manuel believes the Angels are best-equipped to go all the way.

"They have good pitching, but it has to come out early in the first round," he says. "And don't forget, Detroit has three Cy Young Award winners (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price), but their bullpen has been shaky."

Manuel likes the Dodgers in the National League, but believes the Nationals could surprise, "and their starting pitching is almost as good as L.A.'s. When you look at the Dodgers' starting pitching, you know they'll take them deep into games."

And that brings us back to Baltimore.

"All things said, Baltimore has probably had the best year of any team in the American League, because they've played in the toughest division," says Manuel. "Their pitching has been tremendous -- very surprising to me.

"I agree this is a team that could go all the way. Aside from the Wild Card [Game], you have to win 11 postseason games to take everything. Believe me, there are a lot of bumps along the way."

That's why the games are played on the field, not on paper.

Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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