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Late homer by Rangers sinks Angels in home finale

Street allows go-ahead solo shot to Rua in ninth inning

Late homer by Rangers sinks Angels in home finale play video for Late homer by Rangers sinks Angels in home finale

ANAHEIM -- Results matter for Huston Street and the Angels -- just not as much this time of the season.

Street gave up Ryan Rua's one-out solo home run in the top of the ninth on Sunday, handing the Angels a 2-1 loss at Angel Stadium. It was Rua's first career home run.

Despite the loss -- one that kept the Angels 2 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore for the American League's best record -- Street said Sunday was the best he'd felt on the mound in about a month, and that he executed all of his pitches on Sunday except for the 1-2, 90-mph inside fastball to Rua.

"I know when I execute my pitches the way I want to, the results are going to take care of themselves over the long haul," Street said. "Rua's pitch was not an executed pitch, and that's the big leagues. That's sometimes what happens."

Street has allowed runs in two of his last six outings after beginning his Angels career with two runs in his first 20 games. Both of his losses this season have been to Texas.

But Street and the Angels, who clinched the AL West on Wednesday and are already guaranteed home-field advantage in the AL Division Series, have the next 11 days to work out the kinks before the ALDS begins.

"You have to get it done more times than not, 95 percent of the time," Street said. "Results matter, they absolutely do matter, but I feel like, on an individual day-to-day basis, I try to [judge it on], 'How was I feeling today?'

"You can build off of outings like today because you felt good. You felt like, 'If I could do that, more times than not, I'm going to get outs.'"

During his nearly week-long absence with an injured hamstring, Street said he worked on his throwing motion, knowing he wouldn't be needed in the game. In the first three games after returning, Street needed to face just 10 batters to record nine outs as he picked up two more saves.

"I took that week to lock in all my mechanics, all my everything," Street said. "Today was the best I've felt in a while. I threw the ball way better today than I did [Saturday], just baseball sometimes happens."

For the first time in his career, Angels starter Cory Rasmus -- who's mostly been used as a reliever -- dipped into the fifth inning and gave up a double and a walk before exiting after throwing a career-high 59 pitches.

Since replacing Garrett Richards in the rotation on Aug. 30, Rasmus has a 1.69 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in five starts. The Angels have gone 3-2 in Rasmus' starts, but he hasn't been eligible for a win.

"I think Cory has really settled into some consistency," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You can't ask for more than what Cory's done as just a guy kicking off a game for us and going as far as he can. It seems like every start, he gets a little better, finishes a little stronger."

Rasmus said he left Sunday's game without feeling sore or tired, which was "a step in the right direction."

Howie Kendrick, though, left the game with a tight hamstring before the top of the eighth. Scioscia said Kendrick would sit out Monday if necessary.

"It's better to come out now than to mess something up," Kendrick said.

In the sixth, Fernando Salas loaded the bases with two outs before Tomas Telis lined a hot shot to Erick Aybar, who couldn't handle the ball at short and allowed Leonys Martin to race home, breaking the scoreless tie.

In the bottom of the inning, the Angels answered with a run of their own with Albert Pujols driving in his 101st run of the season with a single to left. The Angels left the bases loaded, however, when David Freese lined out to right to end the inning.

Nick Tepesch stifled the Angels for most of the afternoon, throwing seven innings of one-run ball and giving up four hits. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all five of his starts against the Angels.

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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Angels' postseason roster far from set

Angels' postseason roster far from set play video for Angels' postseason roster far from set

ANAHEIM -- The Angels don't have any high-stress games remaining this season, but that doesn't mean some of the players don't have something to prove.

With the end of the regular season a week away and the start of the American League Division Series on Oct. 2, the Angels' postseason roster is far from set, with several spots on the roster up for grabs.

"There are a lot of variables that are not defined yet," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're [11] days away and certainly you have different rosters that you're ready to look at and how all the pieces are going to fit, but you can't really get the answers until you have the questions."

Here's what to watch for in the last week as the Angels try to fill out their roster:

The rotation
With Matt Shoemaker's status unknown (left oblique strain) and Hector Santiago struggling in his last two starts, the Angels have floated the idea of using a three-man rotation in the playoffs.

Santiago will get one more regular-season start -- Wednesday in Oakland -- to try to earn a playoff rotation spot after he recorded just nine outs in his last two starts. He has been effective for much of the second half but has stumbled recently (10 runs, 12 hits and five walks in his last two starts) and could end up in the bullpen for the playoffs.

Shoemaker, meanwhile, has reported feeling better nearly every day since he got hurt on Monday, but he hasn't thrown off a mound yet. The Angels will try to give him a start in one of the season's final two games.

The lineup
Even with a healthy Josh Hamilton (rib soreness), the Angels are still searching for a bat to rotate into the lineup, either as the DH or in the field. Without Hamilton, they need a left fielder as well. While Collin Cowgill figures to make the roster, C.J. Cron and lefty-swingers Efren Navarro and Brennan Boesch are battling to make the cut. Since the beginning of September, at least one of that trio has started all but three games.

"All those guys bring a little different look, but I think we're going to be OK," Scioscia said. "It might not be one guy, you might have to mix and match a little bit, but I think we're going to have a pretty good look as we finish this week."

Navarro is a contact hitter who hits to all fields, while Cron and Boesch provide power in the bottom third of the order.

The lefty reliever
Since coming over from Arizona in early July, Joe Thatcher has struggled against left-handed hitters, allowing them to hit .467 against him in 13 games. On the upcoming road trip through Oakland and Seattle, Thatcher will get an opportunity to prove himself against Oakland's array of lefties, plus Seattle's Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.

"It's nice to have that presence there, but some of our lefties haven't looked really good against lefties recently, so you have to weigh a lot of things," Scioscia said. "It's not just that they're a left-handed pitcher, it's the function of, 'Are guys going to go in there and make pitches and get outs?'"

At times this season, the Angels have gone without a left-hander in the bullpen, instead using righties Fernando Salas (.168 average against), Kevin Jepsen (.209) and Joe Smith (.211) to neutralize lefties.

The utility man
For most of the year, Scioscia has used John McDonald as a late-game defensive replacement for David Freese at third base. But McDonald's defense may not be enough to get him to the playoffs as he sports a .162 average on the season and has three hits since July.

Gordon Beckham has spelled Freese at third in the last month and has received the lion's share of at-bats as the utility infielder since coming over from the White Sox in a late August trade. He has hit .250 in his first 20 games with the Angels.

Both McDonald and Beckham can play second, third and shortstop.

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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Pujols out at first base as call is overturned

Pujols out at first base as call is overturned play video for Pujols out at first base as call is overturned

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers won a big challenge in the bottom of the eighth inning of their 2-1 win against the Angels on Sunday.

The score was tied at 1 when Mike Trout drew a one-out walk off Rangers reliever Shawn Tolleson. Albert Pujols followed with a smash at third baseman Adrian Beltre, who juggled the ball as he tried to gain control.

Beltre threw to first, but Pujols was called safe by first-base umpire Jim Wolf. First baseman Adam Rosales went to argue and Trout raced to third. The Rangers challenged the call at first and it was overturned after replay review. With two outs and a runner at third, Gordon Beckham flew out to right to end the inning.

The Rangers went ahead in the top of the ninth on a home run by Ryan Rua.

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.

{"content":["replay" ] }

Angels aim to slow rival A's postseason charge

Samardzija looks to outduel Wilson during series opener in Oakland

Angels aim to slow rival A's postseason charge play video for Angels aim to slow rival A's postseason charge

Well, this series hasn't shaped up the way it looked like it would at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Angels, not the A's, have run away with the American League West and have the Majors' best record, and they're now playing for homefield advantage in the AL Championship Series. It's the A's with much more on the line, as they are clinging to a Wild Card berth.

With seven games remaining, the A's lead the Royals by a half-game for the top AL Wild Card spot and lead the Mariners by two games. They'll send July acquisition Jeff Samardzija to the mound against the Angels at O.co Coliseum.

Samardzija has been one of the few bright spots for Oakland lately. He pitched a gem in his last start against Texas: eight scoreless innings, 10 strikeouts and no walks. But Sean Doolittle blew the save in the ninth. In his last two starts, Samardzija has pitched 15 scoreless innings, but he received a no-decision each time. His last win came on Aug. 25. Just like with the Cubs, he can't seem to find much run support in Oakland.

Samardzija faced the Angels in Anaheim on Aug. 30 and took a hard-luck loss, going eight innings and giving up two runs (one earned) with nine strikeouts and no walks. Over his last five starts, he's posted a 1.66 ERA -- but the A's are 1-4 in those games.

The Angels -- 2 1/2 games up on Baltimore for the best record in the AL -- will counter with C.J. Wilson, who had his best start of the second half on Wednesday: one hit allowed in seven shutout innings. It was Wilson's first scoreless appearance since a shutout against Tampa Bay in May. He last started against the A's on Aug. 28, and was tagged for three earned runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

A's: Gentry and Jaso potentially done for season
The A's will again be shorthanded on Monday night.

Craig Gentry continues to slowly recover from a concussion, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that the A's outfielder will play again this season.

On Sunday, A's manager Bob Melvin acknowledged that Gentry -- as well as catcher John Jaso -- could be done for the year due to concussions.

"With eight games left," Melvin said Sunday, "there's always that possibility."

Gentry sustained his concussion on Sept. 9 in a collision at first base and remains barred from baseball activity. Sinus issues have impeded his progress, and a doctor examined him on Saturday. He previously sustained a concussion in 2011 as a member of the Rangers.

Jaso, who has been out since Aug. 23, appeared to be nearing a return until a Sept. 10 visit to sports concussion specialist Dr. Micky Collins, who told Jaso he needed to take more time off. His 2013 season was cut short by a concussion in late July.

Angels: Spots open on postseason roster
Even with a healthy Josh Hamilton (rib soreness), the Angels are still searching for a bat to rotate into the bottom of the lineup, either as the DH or in the field. Without him, they need a left fielder as well.

While Collin Cowgill figures to make the playoff roster, C.J. Cron and left-handed hitters Efren Navarro and Brennan Boesch are battling to make the cut. Since the beginning of September, at least one of that trio has started every game but three.

"All those guys bring a little different look, but I think we're going to be OK," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "It might not be one guy, you might have to mix and match a little bit, but I think we're going to have a pretty good look as we finish this week."

Navarro is a contact hitter who hits to all fields, while Cron and Boesch provide power in the bottom third of the order. Navarro and Boesch figure to get the at-bats against the right-hander Samardzija.

Worth noting
• Prior to Sunday's game, the A's had scored 19 runs in their last 10 games. That marked the third time in the last 35 years they had scored fewer than 20 runs over a 10-game stretch.

• Wilson against Oakland this season: two starts, 3.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in 12 innings.

Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Halos get past Rangers on strength of HRs, Weaver

Trout, Pujols, Freese go deep; righty is first 18-game winner in AL

Halos get past Rangers on strength of HRs, Weaver play video for Halos get past Rangers on strength of HRs, Weaver

ANAHEIM -- Jered Weaver is the mostly stoic, sometimes fiery and consistently solid ace the Angels have leaned on through injuries this season and losing the past few seasons.

But after another sterling performance in an 8-5 Angels win over Texas on Saturday night, Weaver has put a new description on the Angels' minds -- fun.

"It's fun to play behind him, it's fun to watch when he paints up, he's just painting out there," said Mike Trout, who -- along with Albert Pujols and David Freese -- homered in support of the veteran right-hander.

"It's fun to watch Jered like that," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he's going out there and he feels like he has every tool that he needs to go out there and pitch at the level that we know he can pitch at."

Backed by three Angels home runs, Weaver delivered seven-plus strong innings, his second consecutive start of at least seven innings, this time allowing three runs on five hits while striking out seven. Last Saturday, Weaver struck out a season-high 12 batters as he limited the Astros to one run.

In his last two starts, Weaver -- who won his league-leading 18th game Saturday -- has looked untouchable, posting a .184 opponents' batting average.

"Jered picked up where he was for the last couple of outings," Scioscia said. "The stuff has really picked up. He's really comfortable with his mechanics, the ball's coming out of his hand as well as it has in four or five years. It's fun to watch."

Weaver said this was the best he's felt in "three or four years" and that he finally feels over some shoulder tightness that had lingered the past few seasons. With one more start before he takes the ball in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Weaver is rounding into postseason form.

"[Before recently], I just wasn't throwing the ball like I knew I was capable of," Weaver said. "It's been a long process trying to knock that out and, at the same time, trying to gain some strength back."

The 31-year-old right-hander's fastball has seen an uptick in velocity recently, while his strike percentage of 70 in his last two starts is significantly higher than the 63 percent he sported in his first 30 starts.

"I think he's very comfortable with where he is right now, where his game is, and hopefully, it's going to be something he's going to maintain for a long time," Scioscia said.

Just how long, though, could depend on Weaver. With the rest of the Angels' starting rotation a question mark, Weaver's start in Game 1 of the ALDS is pivotal to the club's postseason chances. He could even be relied on to pitch a potential Game 4 on three days' rest.

One start this coming Friday in Seattle stands between Weaver and his first playoff game in five years, but he refused to look ahead.

"We still have to go out there and play games and carry our momentum moving forward," Weaver said. "We have to play these games like they are playoff games, treat every at-bat like it's an important one and every pitch like it's an important one."

Weaver has thrown few duds this season, instead keeping the Angels in the game until their bats could score runs or their bullpen could lock it down. In his 32 starts this season, Weaver has exited a game losing by more than two runs only three times.

"It's been impressive," Trout said. "It's what he's capable of doing. He's been working hard trying to improve every day, and since Day 1, he's been improving. He gives us a good chance every time he goes out there, that's what you have an ace for."

At this point in the season, with a division title wrapped up and home-field in the ALDS locked up, the Angels only have one item left to check off their checklist -- capture the AL's best record. With Saturday's win, the Angels' lead over Baltimore for the best record in the AL remained at 2 1/2 games.

Trout, Pujols and Howie Kendrick -- the Angels' Nos. 2-4 hitters -- combined to go 8-for-11 with five runs scored, five RBIs and two home runs.

Trout -- who walked and scored in the first inning -- blasted a two-run shot to center field in the third, his 35th home run of the season. Two innings later, Trout narrowly missed his second home run of the game when he bounced a triple off the raised wall in right-center.

But Pujols drove in Trout with a towering home run to left-center-field that gave Pujols 100 RBIs on the season. Freese gave the Angels an eight-run lead with a three-run blast in the fifth.

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

{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }
{"content":["injury" ] }

Halos' Hamilton has cortisone shots for lingering pain

Halos' Hamilton has cortisone shots for lingering pain play video for Halos' Hamilton has cortisone shots for lingering pain

ANAHEIM -- In an effort to rid himself of lingering pain on the right side of his body and prepare for the playoffs, Josh Hamilton has tried a lot -- stretching, hitting, running, throwing.

On Friday, Hamilton took the severe measure of taking seven cortisone shots -- five nerve blocks on his back and two injections on his chest. In the last two weeks, he had previously received five shots on his sore shoulder.

"I think I'm radioactive," Hamilton joked.

Hamilton, who is now bothered by rib pain that once made it hard for him to breathe, is aiming to return for the final game of the Oakland series next Wednesday or the series opener at Seattle two days later. A CT scan on Friday showed inflammation in his ribs.

"Whatever it takes to get well enough to get back and play three or four games before the playoffs," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he no longer had trouble breathing, and the sharp, stabbing pain around his ribs underneath his armpit was gone. The 33-year-old left fielder said he was just sore from the shots themselves.

He started Tuesday's game as the designated hitter, but those three at-bats have been his only action since Sept. 4.

"I got more confidence that I'll come in every day feeling a little bit better than if I hadn't done it," Hamilton said. "We feel like this is the next step: throw something big at it to try to calm it down the quickest."

While Hamilton did indicate that he would like to play the field when he returns, he said spasms bothered him when he threw on Thursday.

"The actual throwing was fine, but the glove part of it, I came in straight from that and spasmed up right away," Hamilton said. "The initial doing it is not the problem, it's the after. Obviously, I'd be doing it a lot, and we can't have the after happen."

When Hamilton does return, it'll be just a few games before the playoffs. In the past, how long has it taken him to get comfortable in the batter's box?

"I've had success with no at-bats and not any success with 50, so that's a tough question to answer," Hamilton said. "Just pray it's no at-bats."

Hamilton is a big piece of the Angels' playoff roster puzzle. If he's healthy, he serves as a dangerous middle-of-the-lineup threat that complements Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. If he's not, the Angels will have to figure out how to replace him without shorting their thin pitching staff.

Matt Shoemaker, who is sidelined with a mild left oblique strain, missed his scheduled start on Saturday and hasn't thrown off a mound since pitching on Monday. Since then, he has reported feeling better each day.

The Angels are hoping Shoemaker will return in time for the American League Division Series, but manager Mike Scioscia said they wouldn't know much until Shoemaker throws.

"When Shoe starts to throw, gets off the mound and turns it loose, you'll kind of exhale and breathe a sigh of relief," Scioscia said. "We're not there yet. That's the only thing that's going to show you where Shoe is."

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

{"content":["injury" ] }
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Santiago struggles, can't halt Rangers' streak

Halos drop back-to-back home games but keep pace with Orioles

Santiago struggles, can't halt Rangers' streak play video for Santiago struggles, can't halt Rangers' streak

ANAHEIM -- The Hector Santiago who lasted one inning in Friday's 12-3 loss to Texas did not look like the one who stood in the Angels clubhouse after the game.

Hours after giving up seven runs on seven hits, Santiago emerged with a shaved head and his full beard sculpted into a goatee. He had already showered -- in full uniform -- and jumped in the hot tub -- in full uniform.

The haircut chopped off the night's mistakes. The shower washed them down the drain.

"Clean it out," Santiago said. "Get all the bad effects off … wash them away."

The Angels are hoping this new Santiago can be more like the old one they saw in July and August and less like the one who has shown up recently. In his last two starts -- the two shortest of his career -- Santiago has scuffled through three total innings, allowing 10 runs, 12 hits, five walks and two home runs.

"Hector has definitely showed what he can do when he's on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think he has to get back and just exhale, had a couple of rough ones, obviously, but his arm is good, his stuff is good, he competes well. Just had a rough go of it the last couple of times and we'll keep him going and see where everything falls together here in the next week."

Santiago's downturn comes on the heels of the best stretch of his season -- an 11-game period that saw him go 4-0 with a 2.04 ERA and .223 batting average against. In the last two games, Santiago's ERA has jumped from 3.38 to 3.98.

"Outside these last two, he's been good for a long time," Scioscia said. "We hope he'll get back on the beam, our pitching is thin and he's important to us. We'll see how he does next week."

With Matt Shoemaker sidelined with a left oblique strain, Santiago is one of only three healthy Angels starting pitchers and could be pitching for a playoff start in his last regular season start on Sept. 24 at Oakland.

Prior to Friday's game, Scioscia said he would consider using a three-man rotation in the American League Division Series, possibly opting to start Jered Weaver on short rest instead of trust a No. 4 option with the ball. Depending on Shoemaker's health, Santiago could become the odd man out.

"It's not just as easy to say 'Hector's struggling, we're going to a three-man rotation,'" Scioscia said. "No. I think that we've got a lot of different branches that are mapped out and we'll see where we are after next weekend."

In the playoffs, Santiago could be the starter in a crucial Game 3 or 4, or he could morph into the long relief man out of the bullpen. While he has struggled recently, he has been good against potential ALDS opponents Oakland, Seattle, Detroit and Kansas City. In nine games and 45 innings against those teams, the left-hander owns a 2.20 ERA and 1.178 WHIP.

"I can definitely be a big part of it, depending on where's Shoe's at, whether it's coming out of the 'pen or starting," Santiago said. "I'm not going to worry about that right now."

The Rangers scored three runs in the first inning off Santiago, highlighted by Jake Smolinski's two-run home run to left field. Texas led off the second with four straight singles and Santiago exited with the Angels trailing 5-0.

Of the 10 batters Santiago faced, seven got hits off him.

"Anything they hit, whether soft or hard, it found a place to land," Santiago said. "It was soft contact. I just gotta get them on the ground and not to bloop in there somewhere. A lot of negatives but some positives to take out of it, for sure."

"I don't think he had anything," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "He wasn't hitting any of his spots and he was missing in the middle of the plate. We're playing good baseball and we're not missing anything."

Despite the loss, the Angels remained 2 1/2 games ahead of Baltimore for the AL's best record, which would ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Santiago's head was completely bald but he still left part of his beard. Why?

"I saved some for next start, just in case," Santiago said. "Clean it away, start fresh. Here we go."

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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Three-man rotation being considered for ALDS

Hamilton's status for postseason remains unknown

Three-man rotation being considered for ALDS play video for Three-man rotation being considered for ALDS

ANAHEIM -- For the first time on Thursday, the Angels' coaching staff went over their potential 25-man roster for the five-game American League Division Series that opens at Angel Stadium in a couple of weeks.

They'll meet one last time on Sept. 28, after their last game of the regular season from Oakland, and they'll spend the next nine days exploring multiple scenarios.

One suggestion that will get plenty of attention: Going with a three-man rotation, which would mean their ace, Jered Weaver, pitches on short rest in the ALDS.

"It's always something you consider in a short series," Scioscia said. "But we haven't made any decisions at all."

Weaver, who has accumulated 200 1/3 innings this season, was scratched from his Thursday start and will be on extended rest for each of his next three outings -- on six days' rest for Saturday, on five days' rest for the last Friday of the regular season and on five days' rest again for Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 2.

But that doesn't necessarily mean he'd be better suited to go on three days' rest thereafter, which would allow him to take the ball for Game 4 on Oct. 6.

"I don't know if you can bank rest," Scioscia said. "You run a marathon, but the fact you didn't run one two weeks ago means you should be able to run one the next day -- that's not the way it works."

Weaver has started on three days' rest only twice before, both times in 2011, when he gave up seven runs in six innings on Aug. 28 and two runs in six innings on Sept. 18. Riding a three-man rotation through the entire playoffs, like the Yankees did with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte in 2009, is almost impossible now because there aren't enough off-days in between.

But it would make sense for the Angels in the first round.

They currently only have three healthy starters in Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago. And even if Matt Shoemaker's oblique strain heals before the end of the regular season -- as he expects it to -- Scioscia can keep Santiago in the bullpen to piggyback off a starter if needed.

"There are a lot of variables," Scioscia said, "a lot of hypotheticals that you can look at."

First Scioscia will see how his rotation shakes out, then he'll decide how many relievers he'll carry and then shift his focus to his position players.

In the meantime, he'll continue to monitor the progress of Josh Hamilton, who's nursing what the five-time All-Star described as "a sharp, stabbing pain" near his chest and right rib cage, underneath his armpit.

Hamilton underwent further evaluation on Friday, but Scioscia said "We're expecting him to be ready for the playoffs."

Still, Hamilton has only played once in the last 15 days, and hasn't been able to do much defensive work, and is at a point where even if he does make it back in time, he wouldn't have much time to establish any rhythm going into the postseason.

"I think there's some things that Josh brings," Scioscia said. "First of all, he's a tremendous defensive left fielder, which you would want him out there on the defensive side. If he doesn't have rhythm, then there's probably a way to find him a spot in the lineup where he can swing and still be that threat."

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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Three million in attendance surpassed for 12th straight season

Three million in attendance surpassed for 12th straight season play video for Three million in attendance surpassed for 12th straight season

ANAHEIM -- The Angels cracked their coveted milestone once again on Friday night, in their third-to-last home game of the regular season, when they surpassed 3 million in attendance for the 12th consecutive season -- a feat matched only by the Yankees.

Heading into Friday's game, the Angels had averaged the fifth-most tickets sold in the Majors at 38,389 per game, while operating at 84.6-percent capacity, which ranked sixth. The Angels averaged 37,277 fans in 2013, 37,799 in 2012 and 39,090 in 2011.

"All the fans keep coming," Angels owner Arte Moreno said after his team clinched the American League West title Wednesday night. "I tell the players every year in Spring Training -- we play the game for the fans. You gotta believe in the fans. And they're here."

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 lose challenge on play at plate

Angels lose challenge on play at plate play video for Angels lose challenge on play at plate

ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia lost his challenge in the bottom of the seventh Friday, when umpires ruled that the call on the field would stand and C.J. Cron was out at home plate.

Trailing by seven with two outs, Efren Navarro lined a single up the middle and Cron tried to score from second, but Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin fired a strike home to barely get Cron on a swipe tag from catcher Robinson Chirinos.

Chirinos had his left foot on home plate, which might have caused Cron to slide around him and try to scrape home plate with his left hand, but umpires deemed he was not in violation of Rule 7.13.

The Angels are now 20-for-35 in getting calls overturned this season.

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 motivated to win for injured teammate Richards

Angels motivated to win for injured teammate Richards play video for Angels motivated to win for injured teammate Richards

ANAHEIM -- The walls were dry and the rug was clean by the time the Angels returned to their clubhouse early Thursday afternoon, the musk of stale alcohol now the only reminder of a raucous celebration that ended just 12 hours earlier.

On Garrett Richards' chair, though, their accomplishment was well-represented. Standing on the seat were two empty champagne bottles, remnants of a celebratory Wednesday night that saw the Angels clinch the American League West title for the first time in five years. And draped over the seatback was a red T-shirt adorned with "WIN FOR GRICH" in giant letters, symbolic of the pitcher they lost and the perseverance they showed.

Richards' season-ending left knee injury, suffered at Fenway Park on Aug. 20, was supposed to cripple the Halos, expose their greatest flaw and force them to lose their footing in a division the A's would eventually run away with.

Instead, it became a rallying cry for the Angels.

"It kind of pushed us together," first baseman Albert Pujols said. "We not only wanted to do it for our ballclub and our organization."

They wanted to do it for Richards -- for the brash-yet-lovable 26-year-old right-hander who vaulted himself to the top of the league and took his star-laden teammates with him. So they turned the page and kept playing, and they strung together some wins. And before they knew it, their AL West lead had grown from 1 1/2 games to 11.

"They didn't skip a beat," Richards said, a large black brace now covering almost his entire left leg. "I'm proud of them."

The Halos have a Major League-best 20-8 record since Richards suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, an event pundits all over the country were certain they couldn't recover from.

"How do they know?" Angels outfielder Collin Cowgill barked. "How does anybody know what's going to happen? No one knows. No one knows the heart of every guy in this clubhouse. No one can measure that. Yeah, we lost Garrett. We didn't lose 25 guys."

There were no speeches in Boston that night, when Richards collapsed while covering first base, writhing on the infield dirt for 10 minutes before getting lifted onto a stretcher. Halos manager Mike Scioscia told his players to shoot Richards a text, and keep him in their prayers, but no team meetings were called and no motivational tactics were deployed.

"The nice thing is that nobody had to say anything," Angels starter Matt Shoemaker said. "Everybody knew."

The Halos were very realistic about what Richards' injury meant; what it will still mean. Scioscia chided when asked if it could galvanize his team a couple days later, saying: "I don't know if there's anything positive that's going to come out of it."

Scioscia was just being honest. Because as motivated as his players might have been to silence critics, and as close as they might have become in the face of adversity, the reality remained:

An Angels rotation that was already thin after losing Tyler Skaggs to Tommy John surgery would now be without the man who would've probably been their Game 1 starter in the playoffs, a guy with 13 wins and a 2.61 ERA through his first 26 starts.

"I remember the feeling when it happened in Boston, talking to guys and being like, 'Wow, this isn't good,'" third baseman David Freese said.

"I had my hand on his head for like 10 minutes," Cowgill recalled. "[Richards] was bawling. He was sad. We were sad. But I think, in a way, it also helped us. We said, 'All right, if we're going to do this, we have to do it together.' That's kind of the attitude we've had. We've just found ways to make up for him not being there."

They've done it by continuing to rely on their deep bullpen, which has the third-best ERA in the Majors and by far the most innings since the start of July, while having to band together every time Richards' spot comes up again.

They've done it with their potent offense, which finally came back to life while averaging 8.6 runs -- without cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton -- during a recent 10-game winning streak.

They've done it, lo and behold, with their starters, as Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Hector Santiago and Shoemaker have given up three earned runs or fewer in 20 of 22 starts since Richards went down.

"You hear the clichés, but this team has an incredible drive to achieve," Scioscia said.

"This is a group that doesn't think too much," Freese said. "We understand what we need to do, how we need to go about it -- and that's believe in ourselves, understand what we have in this clubhouse and understand that something special can happen. Missing Garrett is huge, but we also have to turn the page and keep fighting."

The fight continues in a couple of weeks, when the AL Division Series begins and the games get tense again. Maybe they'll miss Richards then, when they don't have his 98-mph fastball and the wipeout slider to match up against some of the game's most overpowering arms.

Or maybe there's something to what Weaver volunteered during the clinching celebration, saying "this is the best clubhouse I've been in in a long time." Or what Erick Aybar talked about a few days earlier, when he said this team "reminds me of the group we had before, when Vladi [Guerrero] and Torii Hunter were here, and we weren't afraid to tell each other things, and we were like a family."

Maybe this team was just built to persevere.

"Straight up, Garrett pitched great all year for us," said Wilson, a driving force behind the Richards-themed T-shirts. "His contributions got us to where we are. Now it's going to be up to the rest of us."

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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LeBlanc, reserves edged out by Felix, Mariners

Lefty impresses as Angels rest regulars a night after winning title

LeBlanc, reserves edged out by Felix, Mariners play video for LeBlanc, reserves edged out by Felix, Mariners

ANAHEIM -- It wasn't supposed to go like this on Thursday night.

The Wild Card-contending Mariners and their potential Cy Young winner were supposed to steamroll the Angels' second-stringers and their replacement journeyman starting pitcher. Instead, Wade LeBlanc held his own against Felix Hernandez before Seattle won the battle of the bullpens, 3-1, at Angel Stadium.

"Wade came through," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Nothing you can fault Wade with what he did tonight."

Logan Morrison's two-out, three-run home run in the ninth inning handed the Angels just their third loss in their last 15 games, and cut their lead over the Orioles for the top record in the American League to 2 1/2 games.

LeBlanc took the mound in place of Angels ace Jered Weaver, who will start Saturday and once more before taking the ball for Game 1 of the AL Division Series. LeBlanc found out about his start just hours before game time.

"That's the life of a swing man, long reliever, spot starter," LeBlanc said. "Any time they want to give me the ball, I'm ready for it."

The 30-year-old left-hander threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up just three hits. It was the sixth scoreless start of his career and his first since June 2010.

"I think he used both sides of the plate with his fastball," Scioscia said. "Had a cut fastball also, threw a breaking ball here and there, and his changeup -- everything worked. Everything played off each other. That was a really good game for Wade."

It was LeBlanc's first start since allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings against Miami on Aug. 25, although he had worked five games in relief. With Thursday's performance, he has posted a 0.77 ERA in 11 2/3 innings since that start.

"Since then, I'm starting to settle in a little bit, get a little more comfortable mechanically and then pitching to my strengths more than trying to force the issue with certain pitches in certain counts," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc's impressive outing earned him another start as he replaces the injured Matt Shoemaker. It was his longest appearance in nearly four months and he said he "felt good" after throwing 72 pitches.

Hernandez, though, was even better. Seattle's ace breezed through the Angels' backups, scattering three hits and striking out 11 in seven scoreless innings. It was the sixth time this season he struck out 10 or more.

One night after clinching their first AL West title in five years, the Angels sat all of their regular starters. Only three Angels in the lineup had more than 40 starts this season.

"My mindset today was just attack the hitters and play it like it was Trout, Pujols and Hamilton in the lineup," Hernandez said.

Brennan Boesch went 2-for-3 with a stolen base against Hernandez, while the rest of the lineup went 1-for-21.

The final nine games could play out as a tryout period for some Angels reserves as the club attempts to lock up a playoff spot. Boesch, Efren Navarro, C.J. Cron and Gordon Beckham are battling for a postseason-roster spot, and all four started on Thursday night.

"It's good to see some of these guys, because not only are they getting a chance to play, but they're trying to see if there's a role for them moving forward with us," Scioscia said. "I thought those guys were scrappy. They gave us a chance to win."

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

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Hamilton shut down with chest, rib pain

Scioscia hopes to have outfielder during postseason

Hamilton shut down with chest, rib pain play video for Hamilton shut down with chest, rib pain

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton is shut down again, this time with what the Angels outfielder described as "a sharp, stabbing pain" near his chest and right rib cage, underneath his armpit.

Hamilton first felt the pain in the second round of early batting practice on Monday and continued to feel worse throughout Tuesday night, his first game back after missing 11 straight contests with stiffness around his right shoulder.

"As I played, as I ran, as I swung, it got worse and worse, to the point where it hurt to breathe," Hamilton said just before pregame stretch on Thursday. "It just felt like my shoulder blade and everything was pretty locked up."

Hamilton wasn't with his teammates when they clinched the American League West title on Wednesday night. He had MRI exams in the morning, all of which checked out fine, then left the team right around game time to see a chiropractor, having a 40-minute session at his office and then getting worked on again at Hamilton's house later that night. The 33-year-old was still in some pain on Thursday, but was going to try to throw.

Asked of his concern that this could keep him out for the playoffs, Hamilton said: "You're always concerned about it. If I woke up today and felt great, then I wouldn't be concerned about it. I don't know what to tell you as far as long-term, short-term or whatever, but I'm going to do whatever I need to do to get back on the field."

Hamilton -- batting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 88 games -- has played just once over the last 14 days, and after Thursday, only nine games will remain before the AL Division Series. He recently missed time with an injury that began in his right AC joint and spread to his trapezius muscle, prompting him to get three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections, and now it's something entirely different.

Asked if he considers Hamilton's latest ailment a setback, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, simply, "I consider it something new."

"Hopefully it's a minor blip," he added, "and we'll see where we are in a day or two."

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' ALDS tickets going fast

Angels' ALDS tickets going fast play video for Angels' ALDS tickets going fast

ANAHEIM -- Less than 24 hours after clinching a division title, the Angels had already sold 98 percent of available seats for Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series, which take place Oct. 2 and 3 at Angel Stadium.

As of 5:30 p.m. PT on Thursday, roughly 41,000 tickets for each of those games had been sold, according to Angels vice president of marketing and ticket sales Robert Alvarado. Tickets went on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, but more than half of the total was previously sold through season-seat strips and other VIP pre-sales.

Game 5 of the ALDS still has "ample availability," mostly in the 400- and 500-level seats, Alvarado said. Fans looking for specific seating locations for Games 1 and 2 are being told to visit the Angels' ticket-exchange resale site, where authenticated tickets are being sold by season-seat holders.

Alvarado said the response for tickets this year, which marks the Angels' first trip to the playoffs since 2009, "is well ahead of expectations and rivals the demand from the 2004-05 postseasons."

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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Halos scratch Weaver, rest regulars

Newly crowned AL West champs take a breather

Halos scratch Weaver, rest regulars play video for Halos scratch Weaver, rest regulars

ANAHEIM -- The party continued until almost sunrise on Wednesday night, the Angels taking their clinching celebration from the field to their clubhouse to the popular Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, which stayed open exclusively for the players after 2 a.m. PT and lined up cabs outside, ensuring everyone would arrive home safely.

The next afternoon, the awkward stage of the regular season ensued, with the American League West title wrapped up and 10 games nonetheless remaining. The Angels must now strike the perfect balance between locking up the AL's top seed, resting up for the playoffs, establishing momentum heading into October and maintaining the integrity of the game with regard to other playoff races.

Thursday was an exception to the latter.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave his regulars a day off against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, sitting all of his position players and scratching his ace, Jered Weaver, in favor of Wade LeBlanc.

Instead, Weaver will start Saturday, taking the spot vacated by Matt Shoemaker and his mild oblique strain, then start again in the last Friday of the regular season and take the ball for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 2, putting the soon-to-be 32-year-old on five days' rest in the latter two starts.

"The way he threw the ball last time, you could see his stuff has been coming, and I think he'll maintain it," Scioscia said of Weaver, who's 17-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 200 1/3 innings. "But I don't think it's ever a bad thing getting an extra day."

The Angels are already guaranteed home-field advantage in their ALDS, and they entered Thursday with a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in the AL, a distinction that would grant them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as well as the World Series because the AL won the All-Star Game.

"It's important," Scioscia said of maintaining the top seed. But he also wants to give the likes of Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout ample time to get fresh -- and therein lies the difficult balance.

"We're going to keep our edge and keep playing hard," Scioscia said. "But I don't think it [home-field advantage] has the importance of putting guys at risk for injury."

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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Back on top: Angels reclaim AL West title

Bats back C.J.'s gem, but party doesn't start until A's loss

Back on top: Angels reclaim AL West title play video for Back on top: Angels reclaim AL West title

ANAHEIM -- The Angels experienced their symbolic return to the top from the bowels of their home ballpark, glued to the clubhouse televisions while their fans cheered the Rangers from the stands, refusing to leave Angel Stadium until the final out in Oakland was recorded and the American League West title was theirs again.

Almost an hour after the Angels had secured the 95th victory of their breakthrough season, 5-0 over the Mariners, it happened. The A's crumbled in the ninth, the Angels clinched their first division title in five years and jubilation swept the ballpark, fireworks exploding from the rock pile and players prancing onto the field, champagne bottles in hand.

Jered Weaver, the longtime ace and franchise fixture, was one of the first players out.

"Indescribable, really," Weaver said after the franchise's first division title since 2009. "This is the only reason why they're here; they want to see us win. It's been long overdue. Hopefully we can make a good push here in the postseason."

Backed by C.J. Wilson, who twirled seven innings that were every bit as dominant as they were encouraging, the Angels pulled through against the playoff-striving Mariners, then watched the Rangers rally from a one-run deficit with a six-run ninth inning at O.co Coliseum.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said he "became the biggest J.P. Arencibia fan in the history of the world."

The Rangers catcher's homer had involuntarily lifted the Angels to their ninth division title overall and their sixth since 2004, four years after Mike Scioscia took over as manager. They were the first team to clinch a postseason berth on Monday -- the 10th in their history, counting the 2002 team that won the World Series after getting in as the AL Wild Card -- and they hold a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in baseball, with 10 to play.

If they win half of those, they'll be the first team to win 100 games since 2012, tying their franchise-best mark set in 2008.

"It feels really, really good," owner Arte Moreno said. "This started last October, and then getting ready for Spring Training, and here we are. But we still have another season left."

After Wilson's one-hit shutout effort, the offense's five-run seventh and the bullpen's back-to-back 1-2-3 innings, Angels president John Carpino went to pick his son up from the Katy Perry concert at the neighboring Honda Center.

When he walked outside, he noticed hundreds of Angels fans waiting to come back in so they could watch history unfold on the video board.

"So I opened the gates," Carpino said. "It was the easiest decision I've ever had, really."

Down below, once the A's had lost, Scioscia had the floor first.

"You guys worked hard. You guys fought hard. Enjoy it," he told them. "Go ahead, do what you guys want tonight. Don't get in trouble, though. We're not done yet."

The Angels' skipper, whose job had come under scrutiny these last two seasons, summoned Albert Pujols to pop the first bottle of champagne. He couldn't. He wanted one of the young guys, those who had never experienced anything like this before, to do the honors. Fittingly, he called up Kole Calhoun, the leadoff man.

"I was more nervous to pop that first bottle of champagne than I was to play baseball," Calhoun said. "I'm the leadoff guy, so I guess I had to start it. It was awesome."

The A's were supposed to run away with the division, if you'll recall. They added three starting pitchers (Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) to an already-solid rotation before the end of July, then watched as the Angels lost two starters for the season (Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs) from a staff that was thin to begin with.

Then crazy things started to happen.

The Angels picked up 15 games in the AL West over a 33-day stretch from Aug. 10 to Sept. 12, going from four games back to 11 games up. They swept the A's in a four-game series from Aug. 28-31, won a 10th straight game for the first time in 12 years on Saturday. And after Richards tore the patellar tendon of his left knee on Aug. 20 -- an event many were sure would doom their season -- the Angels have reeled off baseball's best record, winning 20 of 27 games.

"Every team goes through adversity, things like that, but this group just keeps plugging away," David Freese said. "It shows. To win a division like this, it's unbelievable. What a great group."

The Angels finished 10 games back of the Rangers in 2010 and '11, shocked the nation by signing Pujols and Wilson in one fell swoop the following December, came up short in 2012, signed Josh Hamilton three months later and spent only one day above .500 in 2013, prompting many to wonder if Moreno would dismiss either Dipoto or Scioscia at season's end.

"Nobody was going anywhere, but nobody wanted to believe me," Moreno said. "It is a team effort. We spent a lot of time talking. We have a lot of really smart people that study and work, and everybody's communicating, and all the fans keep coming."

They did it with a deep bullpen, solidified when Jason Grilli and Huston Street joined an already deep group midseason. They did it with a potent offense, one that leads the Majors in runs while riding an MVP-worthy season from Mike Trout and contributions up and down the lineup. They did it with unlikely heroes, from Matt Shoemaker to Cory Rasmus to Calhoun, the leadoff man.

"Great team chemistry," Trout said when asked what it took this season. "We really just rallied together. 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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Scioscia wins challenge in finale with Mariners

Scioscia wins challenge in finale with Mariners play video for Scioscia wins challenge in finale with Mariners

ANAHEIM -- The Mariners' Logan Morrison was called out in the fifth inning after a video review overturned the call on the field of an infield single during the Angels' series finale with Seattle on Thursday night at Angel Stadium.

Morrison grounded Wade LeBlanc's first pitch of the inning to second baseman Grant Green, who barehanded the ball and fired to first. Efren Navarro made a nifty scoop to catch the low throw, which barely beat Morrison.

Morrison would have been Seattle's third baserunner against LeBlanc, who started in place of Jered Weaver as Mike Scioscia scratched Weaver and rested his regular position players the night after his club clinched the American League West title.

Chris Denorfia flied out and Mike Zunino struck out to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.

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

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Wilson finds form for Angels at just right time

Veteran lefty allows just one hit to breeze through seven innings in clinching win

Wilson finds form for Angels at just right time play video for Wilson finds form for Angels at just right time

ANAHEIM -- The Angels officially clinched the American League West title late Wednesday night, but that became inevitable long ago. The most encouraging part was how they did it -- with C.J. Wilson dominating for the first time in a long time.

"It's what I need to do," Wilson said after twirling seven scoreless innings in an eventual 5-0 win over the Mariners. "If we're going to win, I have to pitch like that. I've been working on it for a while, trying to get my delivery right, and tonight it all paid off."

Wilson entered that start with a 4.61 ERA. He had completed six innings only three times in his previous 13 outings, sported the highest walk rate in the AL and led all qualified starters by averaging 17.9 pitches per inning. Then he retired the first 11 batters in order, didn't give up his first hit until there were two outs in the fifth and breezed through the first six frames with only 66 pitches.

"That's important, to see C.J. pitch that well," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after Wilson walked three, struck out seven and gave up only the one hit. "He was ahead in the count, brought his secondary pitches in -- he was really pitching well."

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

With Garrett Richards (torn left patellar tendon) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) out for the season, the Angels were down to four starting pitchers. Then Matt Shoemaker suffered an oblique strain on Monday night, clouding his availability for the AL Division Series and further heightening the importance of Wilson bouncing back.

The Angels need the 33-year-old left-hander to return to the form that made him a solid No. 2 behind Jered Weaver, and they need it to happen now.

That's why Wednesday night was so uplifting.

"Wow," catcher Hank Conger said. "Wow. That was unbelievable. Unbelievable. That's the best I think I've seen him pitch all year. We need that. He's our heart. He's going to help lead us however deep we're going to get. To see the outing he put out tonight was just such a bright light to shine going into the playoffs."

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

Richard Justice

Angels ride determination back to the top

Angels ride determination back to the top play video for Angels ride determination back to the top

This was a division championship built on perseverance and resilience. Oh sure, you hear every champion say this kind of stuff. The only thing is, these Angels walked the walk.

That's the thing to remember about them as they prepare to play October baseball. They're a team that will not blink.

If the Halos were going to come undone, they would have done so months ago. Their whole is greater than the sum of their parts, and while that's one of the enduring cliches of sports, it also happens to be true.

The Angels wrapped up the American League West championship on Wednesday night with a 5-0 victory over the Mariners in Anaheim. Once the Rangers finished off a 6-1 victory over the Athletics about an hour later in Oakland (the end of which was shown on the Angel Stadium video board), the party began.

At 95-57, the Angels have baseball's best record, thanks to going 57-24 in the final three-plus months. The Halos were six games out of first place in late June and tied with the Athletics for first place on Aug. 17. Their 18-4 run -- along with a smothering A's slump -- set up the division title's return to Southern California.

The Angels were resourceful and resilient. They came from behind 45 times, tops in the Majors. They overcame deficits of at least two runs 17 times and at least three runs 11 times.

This may be the thing that pleases their manager, Mike Scioscia, most. They played until the last out, and while that sounds like a basic thing, it's one of the things that separates champions.

In doing so, the Angels erased the bitter disappointment of the last two seasons. Those seasons began with optimism after owner Arte Moreno delivered the big-ticket signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for the 2012 season and Josh Hamilton for '13, but they ended with the Halos on the outside looking in.

Maybe those seasons made this one even sweeter, because they were reminded that winning championships is never about one player or even a dozen players. It's constructing a team that gets contributions from every corner of the clubhouse.

The Angels won the AL West despite a dizzying assortment of injuries. Hamilton missed his 63rd game of the season on Wednesday night. Left-hander Tyler Skaggs was lost for the season on July 31, right-hander Garrett Richards on Aug. 20. They were a combined 31-13 in their starts this season.

Richards, in his third full big league season, had emerged as a No. 1 starter, and his knee injury at Fenway Park could have been the killer. The Halos were 19-7 when he got the ball.

The Angels kept going. Rookie right-hander Matt Shoemaker (16-4) emerged as one of baseball's most consistent starting pitchers and Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Kole Calhoun and others did their parts as well.

The Angels won because their stars, especially Pujols (26 home runs, 98 RBIs), delivered again and again. Pujols led the Majors with 33 go-ahead RBIs. Jered Weaver (2.04 ERA in his last four starts) and David Freese (.353 batting average in September) were at their best down the stretch.

Mike Trout?

Ho hum, another spectacular season. Trout has 109 runs, 39 doubles and 34 home runs, and he seems certain to finally win the AL Most Valuable Player Award that eluded him the past two seasons.

One of the bonuses of the Pirates making the postseason last season was that the entire country got to experience Andrew McCutchen's greatness.

Likewise, if there are fans out there who haven't experienced the greatness of Trout, this postseason will offer a special treat. They will see that he does everything well and that he does it all with a joy that's infectious.

This division championship is a tribute to a general manager, Jerry Dipoto, who did tremendous work in constructing a winning roster and adding to it along the way. It's also a tribute to Scioscia, who proved again that he's still one of the best managers -- and most respected men -- in the game.

The Angels were able to overcome all those injuries because of their depth and because of the leadership of guys like Pujols and Weaver. But in the end, this championship is a tribute to Scioscia's steady hand, to his leadership and to his ability to manage a bullpen and a clubhouse as well as anyone in the game.

Scioscia took some ridiculous shots the last two years, and so this trip back to the postseason, the club's first since 2009, has to be especially sweet.

The Halos have used 54 players this season, including 31 pitchers. Wilson won the clincher with seven shutout innings, and that's important because Shoemaker's availability is uncertain after pulling a rib cage muscle in his last start.

This October, there won't be a consensus favorite. There's a case to be made for all 10 teams, especially the Angels. Weaver and Wilson give the rotation a 1-2 punch that should not be underestimated. Huston Street is at the back of a very good bullpen. And in Trout and Pujols, the Halos have players who can take over a postseason series.

They are already guaranteed home-field advantage in their AL Division Series. Their next goal is to finish with the best record in the game, which would give them home-field advantage right through the World Series. So winning the division was another brick in a larger wall.

It was also an opportunity to reflect on what has been a remarkable season. The Angels have passed every test so far. There just might be more fun ahead.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels have pedigree to go all the way

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ANAHEIM -- It isn't hard to conjure up a cynical view of the Angels heading into the playoffs, even though they lead the Majors in winning percentage and run differential. All you have to do is look at their rotation.

It was perceivably thin before the start of August -- or "early February," as Angels manager Mike Scioscia put it -- and then it quickly grew troublesome. Tyler Skaggs made his last start before Tommy John surgery on July 31, Garrett Richards suffered a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 20 and Matt Shoemaker -- the unheralded rookie and this staff's saving grace -- is currently nursing a left oblique strain that has his status for October in question.

But teams have continually overcome rotation shortcomings to win it all, and there are so many reasons to feel good about the 2014 Angels as they march toward October. Below are five reasons they can win the World Series, in descending order …

Deep bullpen

The Angels' success has run parallel to the depth of their bullpen. It went from their biggest weakness to their greatest strength in the middle of the season, when former All-Star Jason Grilli, lefty specialist Joe Thatcher and veteran closer Huston Street were added to a group that already included a solid setup man (Joe Smith) and an assortment of capable right-handers (Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin and Cory Rasmus).

Since the start of July, the Angels' bullpen has been among the best in baseball. And in the playoffs, their bullpen will play a vital role in offsetting a thin rotation. But does that translate to October? Can you win by relying heavily on your bullpen and merely getting by with your rotation? Well, nine of the last 19 World Series champs got fewer than six innings per game from their starters. The 2002 Angels barely got more than five innings, and they received a quality start in just two of their 16 playoff games that year.

So, there's definitely precedence.

Fierce lineup

For the past two years, the Angels have been billed as an offensive juggernaut with three nine-figure salaries in one lineup: Albert Pujols ($240 million), Mike Trout ($144.5 million) and Josh Hamilton ($125 million). In tune with that, the Angels lead the Majors in runs and rank fourth in OPS, but their above-average production is less a product of star power and more a product of overall depth.

Trout looks like the favorite for the American League's Most Valuable Player Award, Pujols has put together a solid year, Kole Calhoun has been dynamic at the leadoff spot, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and David Freese have provided punch near the bottom and Chris Iannetta has been an on-base machine. The key will be getting Hamilton going, and perhaps finding a hot bat at the revolving door that has been designated hitter.

Trout is a difference-maker

We'll finally get to see baseball's best all-around player on its grandest stage. No, this isn't basketball, where a LeBron James can impact an entire conference, or football, where a Peyton Manning dictates so much of what transpires over the course of a game. But on any given night in October, no matter who they face and where they are, there's a strong chance the Angels will have the best player on the field. That's no small thing.

The question is: How will a 23-year-old Trout handle his first postseason experience? Some megastars struggled mightily early in their playoff careers (like Barry Bonds in 1990 and '91), while others (like Derek Jeter in 1996) thrived. It usually evens out when the sample size stretches far enough, but the Angels need Trout to click this October.

They've been here before

Trout's lacking playoff experience is made up for throughout the Angels' roster. Five of their regulars (Hamilton, Pujols, Kendrick, Aybar and Freese), two of their starters (Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson), and five of their relievers (Salas, Jepsen, Grilli, Smith and Street) have appeared in a combined 242 postseason games.

Pujols has two World Series rings and was the MVP of the 2004 National League Championship Series; Freese was the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2011; and Hamilton was the 2010 ALCS MVP, joining Wilson on back-to-back World Series teams during their Rangers days. The Angels' mettle helped them persevere through crippling injuries to their rotation, and it could pay dividends again in October.

They're great at home

The Angels hold a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in baseball, and thanks to the AL's victory at the All-Star Game, they'll have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they hold it.

Since the Wild Card first came into play in 1995, home teams have a negligible .542 winning percentage in the playoffs. But the team with the home-field advantage has won the World Series 16 of the past 20 years, including each of the last five. And the Angels have baseball's best home winning percentage.

And any little advantage helps this time of year.

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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{"content":["postseason" ] }

Tide turns in Angels' favor in return to playoffs

Tide turns in Angels' favor in return to playoffs play video for Tide turns in Angels' favor in return to playoffs

ANAHEIM -- You need talent, sure. But you don't handily win a division, and set yourself up to finish with baseball's best record, without savvy deals, unlikely contributors and uncanny perseverance. The Angels got plenty of that in 2014, which ultimately ended a four-year playoff drought and brought them their sixth American League West title in 11 seasons.

Below are some examples, as we list the five turn of events that changed the Angels' season for the better …

Proving the doubters wrong

The Angels' season was supposed to end on Aug. 20. That's the night Garrett Richards, the 26-year-old flamethrower who was making a case for the AL's Cy Young Award, tore the patellar tendon in his left knee and was forced to undergo season-ending surgery. The Angels didn't have enough rotation depth to overcome the loss, many thought, and it would only be a matter of time before the A's ran away with the division. Then the Angels responded in a way even they couldn't have predicted.

Despite having to utilize an assortment of relievers every five days, the Angels have posted baseball's best winning percentage since Richards went down. They swept the A's in a four-game series from Aug. 28-31, picked up 15 games in the AL West over a 33-day stretch from Aug. 10 to Sept. 12 and won 10 in a row for the first time in 12 years from Sept. 4-13, averaging nearly nine runs per game despite being without cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton for most of that stretch.

From unknown to irreplaceable

Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked recently about what Matt Shoemaker has meant to his team. His response: "You mean besides saving our season?" It was sarcastic, inelegant and dead-on. When the year began, Shoemaker was 27 years old, had accumulated five innings in the big leagues, spent the previous two seasons putting up pedestrian numbers in Triple-A and was barely on the Angels' radar.

Now, he'd be a legit AL Rookie of the Year candidate if White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hadn't come on so quickly. Shoemaker, currently battling a left oblique strain he hopes will resolve itself before October, has 16 wins, a 3.04 ERA and a 5.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For a rotation that barely looked five-deep at the start of the season, has lost Richards and Tyler Skaggs to serious injuries, and has seen C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago deal with varying degrees of control issues, Shoemaker has been every bit the saving grace Scioscia expressed.

Getting their closer

Some felt general manager Jerry Dipoto gave up too much when he sent four intriguing prospects from an already-thin system to the Padres (Taylor Lindsey, Elliot Morris, Jose Rondon and R.J. Alvarez) in exchange for Huston Street on July 19. But the Angels had one glaring need at that time, and it was the ninth inning. And Street was his prime target all along.

Since coming over, the 31-year-old right-hander has been vital in helping the Angels' bullpen pull a complete 180. He's posted a 1.57 ERA, converted 14 out of 16 save chances and solidified the back end of a relief corps that sports the third-best ERA in baseball since the start of July. During that time, the Angels lead the Majors in wins, and that's no coincidence.

Another MVP-worthy year from Trout

In some ways, 2014 could end up being Mike Trout's worst year, and yet it may land him his first AL Most Valuable Player Award. Trout's age-23 season has seen him run less and strike out more, but his power numbers have gone up, his production has remained steady and his value has been every bit as pronounced.

Trout ranks fourth in the Majors with a .940 OPS, has the fifth-most homers with 34, leads all of baseball with 107 RBIs and 109 runs scored and Wins Above Replacement.

Their leaders bounced back

Jered Weaver was coming off a year that saw him miss seven weeks with a broken left elbow and continue to lose zip off his fastball, prompting questions about whether the 31-year-old was still a bona fide ace. Albert Pujols didn't play past July because of plantar fasciitis, batted .258 when he did and left many wondering if the Angels would ever get much value out of their $240 million commitment.

They've each answered the proverbial bell in 2014. Pujols sports a solid .272/.326/.465 slash line, with 26 homers and 98 RBIs while playing Gold Glove-caliber first base and starting 150 of the Angels' first 152 games. Weaver leads the AL in wins with 17, has topped 200 innings for the first time since 2011, sports a 3.50 ERA and has come on strong down the stretch, posting a 2.48 ERA in his past five starts.

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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{"content":["postseason" ] }

Angels' playoff picture has yet to be painted

Angels' playoff picture has yet to be painted play video for Angels' playoff picture has yet to be painted

ANAHEIM -- The Angels had waited since 2009, their last division title. They had waited since 2012, when free-agent acquisition Albert Pujols was supposed to push them over the top. And, on Wednesday night, they had to wait about an hour as they watched from the Angel Stadium clubhouse as the Rangers beat the A's in Oakland.

Oakland's loss, coupled with the Angels' 5-0 win over the Mariners, secured the Halos' sixth American League West title since 2004 and first in five years -- and they might have gotten a sneak peek at their opponent in their AL Division Series.

The Athletics are tied with the Royals for the AL Wild Card spots and had all of the Angels' eyes on them as they blew a 1-0 ninth-inning lead and lost to the Rangers, 6-1. If the Angels hold onto the AL's best record, they would host the winner of the Wild Card Game.

"We celebrated every strike, every ball," closer Huston Street said of the postgame viewing party.

Oakland's loss also tightened the AL Wild Card race, with Seattle only two games behind the leaders. Detroit leads the AL Central by just a half-game. Here are the candidates to face the Angels in the playoffs:

Oakland: The A's were the team the Angels were chasing for most of the season. But then Oakland's collapse opened the door for the Halos to stretch the division lead to double-digits and clinch with nearly two weeks left in the season.

Oakland's pitching depth makes it a dangerous matchup for the Angels, who are piecing together a rotation. The Angels are 8-8 against Oakland this season, but they have won the last five meetings.

"The A's aren't out of it," Street said. "The A's are a good team."

Kansas City: The Angels are a completely different team than the last time they faced the Royals in June, when Kansas City took two of three at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals shelled both C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker in that series as they evened the season series at 3-3.

Since then, the Angels have shored up their bullpen and found the right recipe at the plate to give them the Majors' highest-scoring offense.

Seattle: Like Oakland, Seattle has played the Angels tough this season, beating the Halos eight out of 15 times. Felix Hernandez leads a pitching staff that has held the Angels to a .220 batting average in their 15 games against each other.

Of their 15 games, eight have been decided by two runs or fewer.

Detroit: The Tigers carry a precarious lead in the AL Central and could fall into the AL Wild Card Game if they can't hold off the Royals, which would be welcomed by the Angels.

The Angels took three of four against the Tigers in July, just days after Street was added to revamp the bullpen. Los Angeles won two one-run games during that series and went 4-3 against Detroit. The Angels did not, however, face David Price, who has since joined the Tigers.

In order to play the Wild Card winner, though, the Angels need to hold on to the league's best record, which would also ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They lead Baltimore by three games with 10 games left.

Street said Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to celebrate the win but not lose sight of the goal ahead.

"He mentioned we still have work to do," Street said, "but to enjoy this moment because he out of all people recognizes how special this is."

The short-handed Orioles seem to have an easier road to finish the season, with series against the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays ahead. The Angels, meanwhile, play contenders Seattle and Oakland seven more times and Texas three times.

While the Angels could lock up home-field advantage, they are also looking to get healthy for a playoff run. Josh Hamilton's injured shoulder hasn't allowed him to play the outfield, and Shoemaker's oblique will hold him out of his next start and, possibly, more.

Hamilton served as the Angels' cleanup hitter for most of the season while Shoemaker is enjoying a breakout rookie campaign, going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA.

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

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Shoemaker's uncertain status weighs heavy on Halos

Shoemaker's uncertain status weighs heavy on Halos play video for Shoemaker's uncertain status weighs heavy on Halos

ANAHEIM -- All of the Angels' postseason hopes now rest in Matt Shoemaker's left rib cage area, which was wrapped with a giant bag of ice early Wednesday afternoon. This is where they're at, on the verge of clinching a division title but particularly vulnerable with their starting rotation, which has already lost Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs for the season.

Shoemaker said he was "still a little sore" two days after exiting his start with what an MRI exam later revealed was a mild oblique strain, "but it feels better than yesterday, which is really positive."

Still, the uncertainty lingers.

"There is no time frame," Shoemaker added. "Literally they said in two or three days you can feel good, or it could be a week or two. We'll just go by feel. Once it stops feeling sore, they want to get into some activity just to test it and rehab it. I want to get into everything quick, but they're just being smart."

The only thing the Angels know right now is that Shoemaker will not start on Saturday when his turn in the rotation comes up. Angels manager Mike Scioscia wouldn't say who will take Shoemaker's spot, but did confirm that it'll be someone currently in his clubhouse -- eliminating Double-A right-hander Drew Rucinski and strongly indicating that it would be Wade LeBlanc, a lefty who spent much of the season at Triple-A.

That hardly matters, though.

The Angels -- their magic number at two heading into Wednesday's matchup with the Mariners -- may have already wrapped up the American League West title by the time Shoemaker's start comes up again. They need the 27-year-old rookie for the five-game AL Division Series in early October, and his status for that is still up in the air.

"We're not going to know," Scioscia said. "I guess it's always encouraging when he comes in and feels a little better as opposed to this thing going in another direction, but there are a lot of hurdles that Matt's going to have to cross before he's out there pitching again, and we're not going to have that answer in 24, 48 hours. We're not. It's going to take time. It's still open-ended, and we'll keep our fingers crossed."

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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Close friends Pujols, Aybar share brotherly bond

Angels duo draws motivation from one another on diamond, in clubhouse

Close friends Pujols, Aybar share brotherly bond play video for Close friends Pujols, Aybar share brotherly bond

ANAHEIM -- It's 3:45 p.m., and Erick Aybar is getting anxious. Albert Pujols, sitting two lockers down in the home clubhouse at Angel Stadium, is staring into his smart tablet and has lost track of time. So Aybar, his batting gloves on and Pujols' custom-made bat by his side, springs up from his chair, forces eye contact with the Angels' first baseman and gestures at the clock on the other side of the room.

"Let's go!" the scrappy shortstop hollers in Spanish. "It's time to hit."

And off they go -- into the cage for their daily regimen of tee work and soft toss and into another work day in their 30s, united by their Dominican culture and an incessant desire to prolong the peak of their careers.

"We're more than teammates," Aybar said. "We're brothers."

Pujols agrees, and specifies: "He's my little brother."

Pujols -- four years older, five inches taller, 50 pounds heavier, appreciably more decorated -- is simply paying it forward. He's taking Aybar under his wing in a way Placido Polanco once did with him in St. Louis, and guiding him to a higher level at an age when shortstops don't necessarily get better.

Asked in what ways Pujols has helped his career, Aybar looks down and shakes his head.

"With everything," Aybar said. "With everything."

Pujols brought discipline. He engrained a pregame routine in Aybar, so prevalent that the 30-year-old switch-hitter gets antsy if they're a minute late to the indoor batting cage on a given afternoon. Pujols preached staying up the middle with runners on base, helping Aybar notch a career-high 67 RBIs while batting mostly fifth or sixth in manager Mike Scioscia's lineup. And Pujols helped Aybar slow the game down defensively, a mentality that -- along with good health -- has made him a Gold Glove Award-caliber defender once again.

How has Aybar helped Pujols?

"Having fun," Pujols said. "I wish I was like that early in my career. I think sometimes I take this game really, really serious."

Pujols is stern and regimented; Aybar is hyperactive and mischievous, always trying to get a rise out of Pujols and, at the same time, taking some of the edge off.

"They couldn't be more different," Angels infield coach Alfredo Griffin said. "It's beautiful."

Aybar splashes water on Pujols as they wait for their group to take batting practice, or slaps him in the wrist during postgame high fives, or throws a rosin bag at him as he conducts on-field interviews, or teases the future Hall of Famer about striking out against a pitcher he just got a hit against.

"Erick is a guy who always has fun," Pujols said. "He wants to win, but every time he's on the field, he loves to have fun. It doesn't matter if he's 0-for-4 or if he made an error. He wants to win, but at the same time have fun."

The Angels' turnaround -- from playing below .500 every day after April 3 in 2013 to being the first team to clinch a playoff berth in '14 -- is a product of many elements, but the impact of Pujols and Aybar shouldn't be lost among them.

Their renewed health has helped the Angels make vast improvements defensively, their production has helped make them the highest-scoring offense in the game, and their grit has helped them overcome crippling injuries to their starting rotation.

Pujols is no longer the same, of course. His 34-year-old body requires a daily massage, which has him showing up to the ballpark 5 1/2 hours before game time just so he can play that night. And his right knee, a product of offseason surgery two winters ago, still doesn't allow him to do the weight-bearing exercises that once helped make him a force to the opposite field.

But Pujols' numbers -- a .274/.328/.468 slash line, with 26 homers and 98 RBIs -- are still impressive. His defense is rock solid once again. And Pujols has found a way to start 149 of 151 games for the first-place Angels, spending more than 70 percent of them at first base.

"When you have so many injuries, you're no longer the same guy from before," Aybar said. "But everyone knows who Albert is, what he brings. Sometimes people say, 'Oh, he's not driving in as many runs or hitting as many home runs.' But as a teammate, you know what kind of person you have beside you. It's not only about him hitting 30 homers; it's that he's always around you, helping you."

Pujols will have seven years remaining on his contract after 2014, but he's at a point in his career when he's starting to realize the importance of imparting wisdom.

"At the end of the day," he said, "we all hang our uniforms -- but the relationships always stay the same."

To that end, Pujols has been on top of Aybar about his defense, getting him to slow down on some of his throws while also eliminating wasted movement. Pujols compared Aybar to former Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria, marveling at how he "makes things look so simple and so easy."

"But," Pujols added, "I keep telling him he has more room to improve himself and get better."

Aybar can be brash, but he's also receptive, particularly when the message comes from someone as prominent as his tight-knit teammate. Little by little, he's been listening more intently, applying the concepts Pujols continually preaches.

And last week, on the first bus to Globe Life Park in Arlington, Aybar finally vocalized that.

"He was like, 'Man, I wish I would've learned the game when I was younger, the way that I know the game now,'" Pujols said. "I learned the game pretty young, and it helped me gain what I have accomplished. But to hear that, man, to hear him say that -- I looked at him and kind of smirked. It was good to hear."

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' Freese is heating up at the right time

Angels' Freese is heating up at the right time play video for Angels' Freese is heating up at the right time

ANAHEIM -- If there's one word to describe David Freese, it may be this one: Streaky. There have been some pronounced slumps in the still-evolving career of the former Cardinals and current Angels third baseman, like the .179 batting average he had in last year's posteason, or the .193 clip he sported this April. But there have also been some scorching stretches along the way, like the last two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, or the 20-game hitting streak he carried through the middle of 2013.

And that's why his current stretch -- taking place as the regular season winds down and the playoffs begin -- could be so significant.

"I'm feeling good," Freese said. "Every pitch, I'm ready to hit. That's kind of where you want to be as a hitter -- patiently aggressive, ready to go at all times."

Freese's playing time was in question at the start of September, while he was stuck in an 0-for-21 slump and watching as newcomer Gordon Beckham stole some of his at-bats. But the 31-year-old entered Wednesday with a .378/.429/.667 slash line over a 13-game stretch that dated back to Sept. 4. He had hit safely in his last seven games, knocking in seven runs in the process, and is consistently driving the ball to the opposite field, like he typically does when he's right.

"Just riding the waves," Freese said, smiling.

Multiple times this season, Freese has gotten hot, prompting questions about whether he was ready to turn his season around just before his bat got cold again. His slow start could easily be forgotten by a strong finish.

"That's what it's all about," said Freese, now batting .261 with nine homers and 52 RBIs in his first season with the Angels. "I'll take this route over the other way around."

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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Wilson named Angels' Clemente Award nominee

Honor recognizes community efforts; left-hander also nominated in 2012

Wilson named Angels' Clemente Award nominee play video for Wilson named Angels' Clemente Award nominee

ANAHEIM -- Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson was named the club's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, annually given to the player "who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

Wilson, who founded C.J. Wilson's Children's Charities (CJWCC), was also nominated for the award in 2012.

"C.J.'s impact in the community goes far beyond the game of baseball," Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl said in a statement. "We are proud of how he continues to represent the Angels on and off the field and are proud to nominate him for this award to honor his contributions throughout the Southern California community."

CJWCC helps raise funds, awareness and youth participation in community service to combat hemophilia. Wilson hosts annual fundraisers, like bowling and video game tournaments, and has donated more than $500,000 to the cause while also visiting children at hemophilia treatment centers.

This season, Wilson visited the Children's Hospital of Orange County and the winners of the Angels Wives Gold Ball Mystery Grab Bag event, which benefits the Special Olympics and Orange County Animal Care.

Wilson will be honored in a pregame ceremony Wednesday.

Starting on Wednesday, fans can participate online to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Last season, fans cast 1.3 million votes, and this year's participants will be entered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series. Voting ends on Oct. 6.

Outfielder Carlos Beltran won the award in 2013.

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

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Angels' bullpen approach hits snag in rout

Rasmus strong through four; magic number at two after A's loss

Angels' bullpen approach hits snag in rout play video for Angels' bullpen approach hits snag in rout

ANAHEIM -- The Angels had made it work -- using a deep bullpen to stitch together a game, a parade of relievers to glue together a rotation spot, and a dozen different pitchers to survive Garrett Richards' injury.

But during a 13-2 loss to Seattle on Tuesday night, it all unraveled.

The bullpen gave up a season-high 13 runs to the Mariners as the Angels endured their worst loss in more than four months.

"We didn't get it done on the mound," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We just didn't pass the baton like we have been all year. These bullpen days, we've gotten to a certain point in the game with a lead, we've held it and done a good job."

Despite the defeat, the Angels' magic number to clinch the American League West dropped to two with Oakland's loss to Texas. They can clinch the division Wednesday with a win and another Oakland loss.

Tuesday was the fourth bullpen game for the Angels since Richards was lost to season-ending knee surgery. In the previous three, the Angels had notched three victories while outscoring opponents, 17-8.

In Tuesday's drubbing, the Angels gave up 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings alone.

With Matt Shoemaker's return date hazy due to an oblique strain, the relief arms will now be asked to cobble together two starts through the rotation. The 'pen has been one of the Angels' biggest strengths this season, but on Tuesday, it let an early two-run lead turn into an 11-run blowout.

In their previous 78 appearances, the relievers had allowed 75 earned runs (2.39 ERA, second in the Majors across that span). On Tuesday, they allowed nearly one-fifth of that.

"These guys are good and they've been throwing the ball very well and they'll bounce back," Scioscia said. "[The Mariners] found holes, hit the ball hard and they beat us up pretty bad tonight."

In the first four innings, it was Angels starter Cory Rasmus doing the beating up. Rasmus, who was making his fourth career start, threw a career-high four innings, allowing just one hit.

Rasmus said he felt good after the fourth inning but an extended bottom half of the inning resulted in Scioscia yanking Rasmus after just 43 pitches. Scioscia said Rasmus' ceiling was about 50 pitches and that he was "pretty gassed" after the fourth.

"I told him 'I felt good, I'd like to go out there for another inning,'" Rasmus said. "At the end of the day, that's their call whatever they see. It's all about the team winning. Tonight, just happened that we lost."

Scioscia summoned Jason Grilli to replace Rasmus in the fifth. Grilli, who had a 2.35 ERA since being traded to the Angels, walked the leadoff man and then hit the next batter. Back-to-back doubles from Mike Zunino and Chris Taylor knocked Grilli out of the game with the Angels behind by one.

Mike Morin allowed an RBI double and escaped with the Angels trailing by just two. But Fernando Salas surrendered five runs on four hits, Joe Thatcher gave up another and Michael Roth allowed three more, with the game out of reach by the seventh inning when the Angels removed nearly every lineup regular.

"We had our bullpen lined up," Scioscia said. "We definitely felt good with getting our guys in and not having to stretch Cory. Unfortunately, it didn't work out."

With Shoemaker hurt, and inconsistency from C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago, the Angels may need to stretch Rasmus in the last few weeks of the season to give the club another pitcher with length, and, possibly, a playoff starter.

Rasmus has never thrown more than 51 pitches and hadn't recorded 12 outs until Tuesday.

"He threw the ball as well as you could throw the ball, there's no doubt about it," Scioscia said. "There's an endpoint for him right now and he was there. … He did exactly what we wanted him to do, getting 12 outs and getting to a point in the game with the lead."

The 26-year-old right-hander has morphed from the bullpen's long-relief guy into a starter who said he'd like to go deeper into games.

"At the same time, I've only been starting, what now, four times?" Rasmus said. "So, you can't really get greedy with it, I guess. Got to make sure you work it outing by outing and build up."

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

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Shoemaker to miss start with oblique strain

Scioscia says Angels will again use bullpen arms to fill rotation vacancy

Shoemaker to miss start with oblique strain play video for Shoemaker to miss start with oblique strain

ANAHEIM -- Matt Shoemaker was diagnosed with a strained left oblique on Tuesday and will miss his next start, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

Shoemaker left in the eighth inning of Monday's win over Seattle with left side discomfort, which an MRI on Tuesday deemed a very mild strain. The 27-year-old rookie said he felt better than he did on Monday, with some lingering soreness that was "to be expected."

"The news," Scioscia said, "could have been a lot worse."

Though Shoemaker will miss his next start (and potentially the next one, too), he was optimistic about returning in time for the postseason -- the Angels clinched a spot Monday.

"There's not been one thing set in stone saying you're going to be ready in one week, you're going to be ready to two weeks," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker has been one of the biggest surprises for the Angels this season, going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA despite not earning his first start until May 13.

But Shoemaker's injury is the Angels' third to a starting pitcher in the past month-and-a-half, following Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and Garrett Richards (patellar tendon tear).

"Unfortunately, right now, you're talking about three-fifths of your rotation you were depending a lot on are out," Scioscia said. "You have to move forward, you have to keep pitching and you have to keep getting outs. We're confident we will, just might be a little bit unconventional."

To fill Richards' vacated spot, the Angels have deployed a plethora of relievers every five days to piece together games. Without any pitchers with significant length, the Angels will have to turn to another bullpen game to replace Shoemaker, Scioscia said.

"When you're considering length, you're talking about a guy that's going to be able to go 80-90 pitches, and those guys aren't capable of that," Scioscia said. "It will be a bullpen day, it just depends on how we're going to line it up, who's going to start and where we need to go."

Cory Rasmus has already been plucked from the bullpen to start in Richards' place, and the options to fill in for Shoemaker are slim. Wade LeBlanc and Michael Roth seem like the most probable options but neither has pitched at least seven innings in the last three weeks.

LeBlanc started one game for the Angels on Aug. 25, giving up six runs in just 3 1/3 innings. Since being recalled in September, LeBlanc has settled into the bullpen, posting a 1.42 ERA in five games.

The Angels' large division lead, which was 10 1/2 games entering Tuesday, allows the club to be patient on Shoemaker instead of rushing him back in the heat of a pennant race.

"Matt's progress is not going to be tied to any schedule, where our season is or what's happening," Scioscia said. "It's going to be tied to this oblique healing and him getting back on the mound."

Still, Scioscia left Shoemaker's return open-ended and cautioned that oblique injuries can be very unpredictable.

"[Monday] night, I think it was a very elevated level of concern; today, maybe not quite as high," Scioscia said. "But you never know where these go with pitchers, much like hamstring injuries, they have a life of their own, they can go a lot of different ways."

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

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Scioscia's challenge overturns call at first base

Pujols' foot lands on bag before Chavez could reach in fifth inning

Scioscia's challenge overturns call at first base play video for Scioscia's challenge overturns call at first base

ANAHEIM -- The Mariners' Endy Chavez was called out in the fifth inning after a review determined Albert Pujols' foot landed on first base before Chavez could reach.

With runners on first and second and no outs, Chavez put a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line, where pitcher Jason Grilli fielded it and sailed a throw just high enough to make Pujols jump to snag it. Pujols landed on the bag and first-base umpire Jerry Meals ruled Chavez beat out the throw.

Manager Mike Scioscia emerged to challenge the call, which eventually saved a run for the Angels. Grilli then allowed back-to-back doubles to Mike Zunino and Chris Taylor, resulting in three Seattle runs.

The sacrifice bunt was the only out recorded by Grilli, who was charged with four runs on two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch. Mike Morin replaced Grilli and finished the frame against the Mariners, who were leading 4-2 after five innings.

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

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Hamilton returns early; Pujols in lineup at first

Hamilton returns early; Pujols in lineup at first play video for Hamilton returns early; Pujols in lineup at first

ANAHEIM -- Josh Hamilton returned to the starting lineup after an 11-game absence, and Albert Pujols was back at first base for Tuesday's game against the Mariners, one night after the Angels first baseman exited in the third inning because of a cramp in his left hamstring.

Hamilton had been out since Sept. 4 because of stiffness near his right shoulder, an ailment that required three cortisone shots and a couple of trigger-point injections. But the 33-year-old outfielder had what Angels manager Mike Scioscia hoped was a "breakthrough" workout prior to Monday's game, taking batting practice on the field and running the bases.

Hamilton, who batted sixth and served as the designated hitter, wasn't expected back until Wednesday, but Scioscia said Hamilton felt much better on Tuesday.

Pujols' hamstring grabbed on him as he pulled up to second base after a two-out, three-run double against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma on Monday, but he said after the game that the training staff had already worked out all of the tightness and he felt fine.

"I think that Albert is adamant in the fact there's no pull," Scioscia said. "Our medical staff feels there's nothing there but a cramp that really after the game was gone."

Hamilton started as the No. 6 hitter for the first time this season, with hot-hitting Howie Kendrick (.457 in his last 11 games) taking his place as the cleanup hitter. Scioscia didn't say how long Hamilton would be slotted there in the lineup.

"I think we can adjust a lot of different ways if we get Josh swinging the bat to his capabilities," Scioscia said. "You have a lot of different looks you can get and we'll be a deeper lineup whether he's hitting in the cleanup spot or fifth or sixth."

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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