Scioscia named AL Manager of Year by Sporting News

Scioscia named AL Manager of Year by Sporting News

Angels skipper Mike Scioscia was named American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday by Sporting News, which also named Matt Williams of the Nationals in the National League based on a panel of 22 fellow managers.

Scioscia edged out the Orioles' Buck Showalter, 6-5, for guiding the Angels to a Major League-best 98 wins before getting swept in the American League Division Series by a Royals team that reeled off eight consecutive postseason victories en route to the World Series.

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Scioscia also won Sporting News' award -- handed out since 1936 -- in 2002 and '09. Those previous years, Scioscia also won the more prestigious Manager of the Year Award that's voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The Baseball Writers' Association will name the 2014 AL and NL Manager of the Year on Nov. 11.

The Angels boasted a star-studded team this season, but Scioscia faced several obstacles in leading them to their first postseason appearance in five years. Josh Hamilton perpetually struggled at the plate and battled injury, leaving the Angels with a void in the cleanup spot. C.J. Wilson had his worst year since becoming a starting pitcher five years ago, clouding an already thin starting rotation. And Scioscia's best pitcher, Garrett Richards, tore the patellar tendon in his left knee on Aug. 20, an injury many felt would spoil the Angels' chances of winning the AL West.

Instead, the Angels rallied, winning 20 of their next 27 to make up 10 games on the A's and ultimately run away with the division.

Scioscia, whose job security came into question after disappointing finishes the previous two years, evolved in many ways in his 15th season with the Angels, from his lineup construction to the incorporation of analytics to a more open relationship with his players.

On Monday, Matt Shoemaker finished second to White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu for Sporting News' AL Rookie of the Year Award. Albert Pujols, however, did not finish among the top five for AL Comeback Player of the Year, an award that went to Mariners starter Chris Young.

The publication will announce the Major League Player of the Year on Thursday, an award that figures to come down to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and Angels center fielder Mike Trout. Kershaw was named Baseball America's Major League Player of the Year on Tuesday, denying Trout a third straight victory.

The BBWAA will announce the AL MVP on MLB Network at 3 p.m. PT on Nov. 13, and Trout is the heavy favorite to win for the first time.

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 will host 15 Spring Training contests

Angels will host 15 Spring Training contests

The Angels announced their 2015 Spring Training schedule, which will include 15 home games.

Training in Tempe, Ariz., for the 23rd straight season, the Angels' first game will be on March 5 against the Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

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The highlight of the 15-game home slate will include a contest on March 28 against the cross-town rival Dodgers. The teams also will meet on March 19 at Camelback Ranch.

The Angels will also have a home game during each weekend in March, including three straight from March 12-14 against the Cubs, Padres and White Sox, and March 27-29 against the D-backs, Dodgers and Reds.

The final home game in Tempe will be on March 31 against the A's, before the Angles return home for the annual Freeway Series against the Dodgers. Two of those games will be played on April 2-3 at Angel Stadium.

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rasmus prepares for potential full-time starting gig

Converted reliever may join rotation in 2015 as Angels build depth

Rasmus prepares for potential full-time starting gig

ANAHEIM -- Most pitchers, including Cory Rasmus earlier this season, insist there is no difference between pitching out of the bullpen and starting a game.

They say that they still have to attack hitters and throw strikes, and that they won't change their routine or the way they prepare. After five starts in September of the 2014 regular season, Rasmus now realizes the differences between being a relief pitcher and a rotation member.

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"Out of the bullpen for the past four years, it's totally been one hitter at a time," Rasmus said recently. "Where as a starter, you have to think that same way, but at the same time, you have to say, 'What can I do the first time through the order?' and then change it up the second time through the order."

This was just one of the lessons Rasmus learned this past season, when his performances out of the 'pen became so good that the Angels converted Garrett Richards' turn in the rotation into a bullpen day started by Rasmus.

Now, the Angels may even look at converting Rasmus into a full-time starter for next season as they try to build depth in the rotation.

"At the end of the day," Rasmus said, "it was me proving to myself that I could compete at this level, and kind of getting a new understanding for starting with that opportunity that I had. It kind of allows me to more or less know what to expect, if I have that role."

Beginning on Aug. 30, Rasmus made six starts, posting a 2.37 ERA, .164 opponents' batting average and 0.84 WHIP through the end of September. By the end of the season, Rasmus had stretched from a two-inning reliever to a starter who could throw four innings and nearly 60 pitches.

Rasmus said he had not had conversations with the Angels about becoming a full-time starter.

"I feel I pitched pretty well and I'm sure we'll have some talks in the offseason," Rasmus said. "We'll get that taken care of. We have three months, four months until we have to be back. We'll get everything settled and we'll figure it out before Spring Training comes around."

If Rasmus is tabbed as a starter next season, the Angels will see a different pitcher by the start of Spring Training. The 26-year-old said he would tailor his offseason workouts to whatever role the club has in mind for him.

"I'll be able to throw how much they want me to throw," Rasmus said.

Rasmus also said he would reintroduce a windup to his repertoire. Beginning midway through last season, Rasmus has thrown exclusively out of the stretch, as most relievers do. But when he transitioned to a starter late in the season, he became one of the few starters that didn't throw out of the windup.

"It mixes it up," Rasmus said. "You're not doing the same exact thing every pitch. You want to kind of give guys different looks every time. … All that stuff comes into effect whenever you're a starter. You want to get them off their game as much as possible. Use anything and everything you can to disrupt their timing."

Although his numbers were solid (.176 opponents' batting average the first time through the order, .125 the second), Rasmus still said pitch sequencing as a starter could help him improve.

"With me, the few times I started, it was out of the gate, everything I got, here we go," Rasmus said. "Fast, curve, change, slider, whatever, just trying to get some outs. You can kind of learn from guys who have done it for a long time. Take some stuff from what they've done, that they've had success with and use it for yourself. Hopefully I can do that."

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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Challenging offseason decisions await Angels

Challenging offseason decisions await Angels

ANAHEIM -- Jerry Dipoto has a tough task on his hands: Keep the Angels competitive, with very little talent in the upper levels of their farm system and most of the payroll tied to long-term contracts for aging players. Dipoto, entering his fourth offseason as the Angels' general manager, must do it all without surpassing the luxury tax, and under a competitive owner with no desire to ever enter in a rebuild stage.

The challenge continues now, with the Angels coming off a 98-win regular season and three days removed from swift elimination by the Royals in the American League Division Series.

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The contracts for Vernon Wells and Joe Blanton come off the books this winter. But Mike Trout's six-year, $144.5 million extension is added to the competitive-balance-tax payroll, which uses the average annual value of all 40-man-roster players, plus bonuses and benefits, to determine how close teams are to the tax threshold. That threshold will be $189 million once again in 2015, with teams taxed 17.5 percent for going over it. Five of the Angels' players (Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Trout) make up about 56 percent of that.

The key to keeping the Angels competitive, and not being in the financial situation of, say, the Phillies, "is to make sure you achieve good balance," Dipoto said.

The Angels need to have contributing players "who develop on the other side of the roster," meaning cheap assets making about $500,000 because they're in the service-time range of zero to three years. The Angels have some of those -- Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker, Mike Morin, C.J. Cron, to name a few -- as well as avenues to free up money down the road.

After the 2015 season, Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta and Huston Street come off the books. After the '16 season, Weaver, Wilson and Erick Aybar are slated for free agency.

Now, what does any of this have to do with this offseason?

This Dipoto quote speaks to that: "We understand what our model is, and we have to stay within that model. We can't be pushed in the direction to do something north, where we have to go above and beyond. I've heard the comment, 'We're all in.' We're all in every year, but we have to do it with good balance. And that means we have to be a little bit more aware of how our roster ages."

Translation: The Angels can't, and are unwilling to, take on any more lucrative free-agent contracts.

They're currently set up to have no more than $10 million of wiggle room below the tax threshold this offseason. And if they do acquire starting pitching, Dipoto would like to do it in a very similar manner in which he did it last offseason, by using two arbitration-eligible position players (Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos) to land two zero-to-three starting pitchers (Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago).

So, yes, you can pretty much forget James Shields, Jon Lester or Max Scherzer.

Dipoto said after the Game 3 loss to the Royals that he feels "really confident in the foundation" of the roster, and that the Angels are "tweaks and turns from being a very good team again" in 2015.

Below is a look at where those "tweaks and turns" may come.

Arbitration-eligible: 3B David Freese (third year), INF Gordon Beckham (third year), RP Kevin Jepsen (third year), RP Vinnie Pestano (second year as Super Two), RP Fernando Salas (second year), SP Wade LeBlanc (second year), SP Santiago (first year), SP Garrett Richards (first year), C Hank Conger (first year), OF Tony Campana (first year), OF Collin Cowgill (first year)

Free agents: RP Jason Grilli, RP Joe Thatcher, C John Buck, INF John McDonald

Rotation: Once again, the rotation will be the most interesting area to monitor. Richards will be coming off knee surgery, though he's expected to be ready by Opening Day; Skaggs will spend the 2015 season recovering from Tommy John surgery; Wilson is coming off his worst year as a starting pitcher; Santiago can be quite erratic; Shoemaker had the kind of success few know if he can duplicate; and Weaver isn't getting any younger.

Still, Dipoto didn't sound like a man who felt like adding starting pitching over the offseason was a major priority. "The well isn't dry," Dipoto said, adding that the Angels are good with a 2015 rotation of Weaver, Richards, Wilson, Shoemaker and Santiago, with added depth from LeBlanc, Drew Rucinski and Cory Rasmus, if converted to a full-time starting pitcher. "We'll continue to find more ways to create more depth on the pitching staff," Dipoto said, but don't expect that to be with a big-name free-agent starter.

Bullpen: The Angels shored up their bullpen with the acquisition of Street, whose $7 million club option for 2015 is basically a formality, and they'll have most of their main guys back next year. That includes Joe Smith, Jepsen, Salas, Morin and Pestano. The Angels could try to work something out with Grilli, and they may look to finally get a lefty specialist, either Thatcher or someone else. In any case, they'll continue to try to add cheap depth here, too.

Catcher: The Angels look set behind the plate, with the duo of Iannetta and Conger providing above-average production in 2014. Iannetta, who will enter his final season before free agency, took over the everyday role down the stretch and finished second on the team in on-base percentage (.373) while improving his caught-stealing percentage (19 percent in 2013 to 30 percent in '14).

First base: Pujols will turn 35 in January, just before starting the fourth season of a 10-year, $240 million contract that is backloaded and could be crippling very soon. The Angels' hope is that Pujols can replicate something similar to his 2014 season -- .272/.324/.466 slash line, 28 homers, 105 RBIs and AL Gold Glove Award-caliber defense -- for several years. Pujols believes he can be even better, once his right knee, surgically repaired two offseasons ago, gets strong enough to help him have a stronger base and drive the ball to right field.

Second base: The homegrown Kendrick enters his final season before free agency, and there are no indications that the Angels will explore an extension similar to the four-year deal they gave him before his walk year in January 2012. Kendrick is coming off another solid year, posting a .293/.347/.397 slash line while taking over the cleanup spot down the stretch. His name was all over the rumor mill last winter, and the Angels could explore dealing him this winter to free up more money. Second base is probably their deepest position organizationally.

Third base: The Angels have an interesting tender decision with Freese, acquired in the deal that sent outfielders Randal Grichuk and Bourjos to the Cardinals last November. Freese is also entering his final season before free agency, and is set to make roughly $6 million in arbitration. The 31-year-old basically duplicated his slash line from last year (.262/.340/.381 in 2013, .260/.321/.383 in '14), but he might have helped make his case by hitting .315 with four homers in the final month.

Shortstop: Aybar is coming off a terrific season at age 30, one that saw him bat .278/.321/.379 while making a case for his second AL Gold Glove Award. The fiery switch-hitter is signed for two more years at a combined $17 million, and he probably isn't going anywhere.

Outfield: Two-thirds of their outfield is very well taken care of. Trout, 23, will probably win the AL's Most Valuable Player Award after batting .287 with 36 homers and 111 RBIs in center field. Right fielder Calhoun is coming off a solid first full season in the big leagues, producing a .272/.325/.450 slash line from the leadoff spot. And then there's Hamilton.

Hamilton is entering the third season of a five-year, $125 million contract after a very underwhelming first two years. He stayed healthy in 2013, but batted .250 with 21 homers. He only played in 89 games in '14 and batted .263 with 10 homers. He continues to be an enigma. Given Hamilton's contract and no-trade clause, the Angels may simply have to cross their fingers that '15 is a bounce-back year.

Bench/designated hitter: Dipoto identified this department as "a focus of our offseason." Last winter, the Angels signed 41-year-old Raul Ibanez to take over that spot, only to release him in June and have a revolving door all year (until finally settling on Cron in the ALDS). This offseason, the Angels will try to acquire more functional pieces that can rotate and also play the field, with Pujols and Hamilton increasingly needing time at DH. They're also expected to be in the market for a utility infielder, unless the Angels surprisingly tender Beckham a contract.

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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Pujols opts out of Japan 'All-Star Series' to be with family

Pujols opts out of Japan 'All-Star Series' to be with family

Albert Pujols has bowed out of the "All-Star Series" in Japan that's slated for November, opting instead to spend that time with his family, a source said Tuesday.

In an August release, Pujols was listed alongside Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano, Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig and Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, highlighting a U.S. contingent that would play a five-game series against Japan's national team.

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Pujols was excited to take part, since he wasn't able to go the last time the Series took place in 2006. But the 34-year-old indicated all along that he wasn't 100-percent committed and ultimately decided against it, largely because he wants to watch one of his daughters take part in a gymnastics event during that time.

Pujols will host a youth baseball camp at Orange High School in Orange, Calif., on Nov. 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT.

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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Beckham wants to stay, but unsure where he'll land

Infielder excelled after Angels traded for him in late August

Beckham wants to stay, but unsure where he'll land

ANAHEIM -- As Gordon Beckham packed up his locker two weeks ago, he had a handful of questions: Do you have an empty box? What do I do with these black shoes? Can you mail this to someone? But one stood out from the others: What do I do with this stuff if I'm not back here next season?

Beckham, 28, is arbitration-eligible this offseason and potentially could be non-tendered by the Angels in December, less than four months after the club traded for him. Beckham was dealt from the White Sox for a player to be named or cash in late August.

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The utility infielder said he doesn't have any expectations going into the offseason.

"Obviously, I hope I'm here going forward," Beckham said. "Hopefully, it's here. If not, it'll be somewhere else."

Beckham made $4.175 million this season and would probably serve as a backup infielder again in 2015 if the Angels bring back third baseman David Freese (who made $5.05 million in 2014 and could also be non-tendered).

In 26 games with the Angels, Beckham slashed .268/.328/.429 while driving in eight runs and posting a 117 OPS+, the highest figure of his career, although in a very small sample size. Beckham, a former first-round Draft pick of the White Sox, said the move to Southern California was beneficial to him.

"You don't expect to get traded in late August, but getting over here was the greatest thing for me," Beckham said. "I was thrilled to be with a new group and a new atmosphere. I needed a change of scenery and this was awesome."

Beckham only made 12 starts for the Angels, but he was versatile enough on both the offensive and defensive side to warrant a spot on the postseason roster.

"Sometimes when you have so much history in a place, you kind of get stale, for lack of a better term," Beckham said. "I was happy to have a fresh start. I've heard people have a change of scenery and they do really well in other places. I feel like I kind of fit under that category. I really needed another place to go and the Angels were great."

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 proud of banner year despite rocky finish

En route to best record in Majors, Halos overcame key injuries to win AL West

Angels proud of banner year despite rocky finish

ANAHEIM -- His team had just been swept by the Royals in the American League Division Series, a triumphant return to the playoffs ending after it barely began, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia wanted to make sure that three-game sample size wasn't the lasting legacy of this club.

"As disappointing as the series was and is right now with us, those guys in that clubhouse had a terrific season," Scioscia said at the dais after the Game 3 loss on Sunday night. "They put everything aside. They played banged up. At times we didn't have quite the depth we wanted to, and guys would step up and want the ball more in the 'pen, or guys went out there and played 90 straight games because they knew how important it was. … They played hard all season, and we had a rough three games."

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After a four-year playoff drought that felt much longer because of the names in their clubhouse and the money on their payroll, the Angels finally cashed in on grand expectations in 2014, winning a Major League-best 98 games, running away with the AL West and finishing second in run-differential.

They did it with a fierce lineup. They did it with a bullpen that became dynamic around the middle of the season. They did it with a starting rotation that outperformed expectations. And they did it with several unlikely contributions throughout the roster.

The first 162 games were a thrill.

But the last three were a thud.

"We had a great year," Albert Pujols said. "It's a little disappointing because we want to bring another championship to the city of Anaheim and we obviously didn't do that. We have to wait another year. We have too many veteran guys around here. I think we can bounce back. It's not going to be the last postseason that we're going to be together as a group."

Record: 98-64, first place in the AL West, eliminated by the Royals in ALDS

Defining moment: The Angels' hopes of winning the division were supposed to have ended on Aug. 20, when Garrett Richards, the best pitcher in a thin rotation, injured his left knee covering first base at Fenway Park and was lost for the season. But from that moment, the Angels rallied. They won 19 of the next 26 games, increasing their lead over the collapsing A's in the AL West by 10 and ultimately clinching a division title on Sept. 17 -- even though they needed to use an assortment of relief pitchers every time Richards' spot came up.

What went right: The offense was a top-to-bottom force all year, leading the Major Leagues in runs while having eight players -- all with at least 350 plate appearances -- finish with an OPS-plus over 100. Only three teams have had more than that throughout history. … The back end of the bullpen became a major strength midseason, when Jason Grilli and Huston Street were added via trade. The Angels had the 11th-best relief-pitcher WHIP in the Majors over the last two months, all while relying on their bullpen heavily. … Veteran leaders Jered Weaver (18 wins and a 3.59 ERA in 213 1/3 innings) and Pujols (.272 batting average, 28 homers, 105 RBIs) bounced back from injury-plagued seasons. … The defense was much more improved, with fewer errors (83, after 112 in 2013) and a better caught-stealing percentage (21.1 percent in 2013, 26.9 percent in 2014) despite similar personnel.

What went wrong: Josh Hamilton -- in the second season of a five-year, $125 million contract -- looked good in the first week, but missed nearly two months with a thumb injury and lost some of his power. He spent the last month rehabbing ailments in his right shoulder and right side, didn't get a hit in the ALDS and finished the regular season with a .263 batting average, 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games. … C.J. Wilson had his worst season since becoming a starting pitcher five years ago, posting a 4.51 ERA while leading the AL in walks (85). He gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 3 of the ALDS. … The Angels' thin starting-pitching depth was tested in August, when Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and Richards (knee surgery) went down. That forced them to go with a three-man rotation and a 12-man pitching staff in the best-of-five ALDS, and though they got good starting pitching in the first two games, they were outplayed in every aspect.

Biggest surprise: Matt Shoemaker went from being on nobody's radar in Spring Training to becoming what Scioscia called the Angels' "savior" by the end of the year. His rookie season came at age 27, after going undrafted out of Eastern Michigan University six years ago and spending almost the entirety of the last two seasons posting mediocre numbers in Triple-A. Shoemaker went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and a 5.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 136 innings.

Hitter of the year: Mike Trout, easily, for the third straight year. The 23-year-old center fielder wasn't just the best hitter on his team; he should easily win his first AL Most Valuable Player Award, after finishing second to the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera each of the last two years. Trout struck out an AL-leading 184 times, but still posted a .287/.377/.561 slash line with 36 homers, 111 RBIs and 16 steals, while leading the Majors in Wins Above Replacement for the third straight season.

Pitcher of the year: His teammates believe he should've been an All-Star, and there's little doubt that if Richards hadn't gone down with six weeks left, he'd be in the Cy Young discussion right about now. This was the year the 26-year-old right-hander finally put it all together, using his upper-90s fastball and devastating breaking stuff to go 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA, 164 strikeouts and five home runs allowed in 168 2/3 innings.

Rookie of the year: Shoemaker is the easy choice. And if not for the head-turning season of White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, Shoemaker would've put himself squarely in the AL Rookie of the Year discussion. But just as big for the Angels, with a high payroll and no desire to surpass the luxury-tax threshold, was that several other young players in the zero-to-three years service-time range stepped up. That list includes Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Mike Morin, Cory Rasmus and Skaggs, who won't pitch in 2015.

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 claim OFs Marte, Kieschnick from D-backs

Club designates Boesch, Buck to create room on 40-man roster

Angels claim OFs Marte, Kieschnick from D-backs

ANAHEIM -- The Angels claimed outfielders Roger Kieschnick and Alfredo Marte from the D-backs on Tuesday, designating outfielder Brennan Boesch and catcher John Buck in order to create room on the 40-man roster.

Kieschnick, who turns 28 in January, bats left-handed and has mostly played right field since the Giants took him in the third round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Kieschnick played in 63 Major League games for the Giants and D-backs the last two years, posting a .200/.265/.248 slash line. He's a .273/.329/.481 hitter for his Minor League career, and hit 15 homers in the Pacific Coast League this past season.

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Marte, 25, played in 66 games for the D-backs the last two years, batting .174/.236/.282. The native Dominican bats right-handed, plays mostly right field -- though he has plenty of experience at all three outfield spots -- and batted .319/.407/.519 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs in Triple-A in '14. Marte was suspended after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs while in the Minors in '11. He represented the D-backs in the Futures Game in '12.

Boesch, 29, played in 27 games and batted .187 in his first season with the Angels, though he starred for Triple-A Salt Lake. Buck, who has 11 years of Major League experience, was signed as a Minor League free agent in July and hardly played for the Angels.

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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Veteran infielder McDonald hopes to play in '15

Free agent and 16-year veteran unsure of future

Veteran infielder McDonald hopes to play in '15

ANAHEIM -- On Monday, John McDonald took a red-eye flight back home to Boston to be with his family.

After that, whatever happens, happens.

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McDonald, 40, who just finished his 16th season in the Major Leagues, served as a late-game defensive specialist for the Angels and is a free agent this offseason. With his age climbing and his playing time dwindling, 2014 could have been the last season for McDonald, although he still hopes to play next year.

"When the time comes for someone to tell you that we don't want you anymore, that'll be it," McDonald said. "I've played so much longer than I thought I would play. You don't take too much stock into something being your last year when you've played beyond what you expected."

McDonald signed a Minor League contract this spring with the Angels, and he made the Opening Day roster before appearing in 95 games (third most in his career) and slashing .171/.256/.197 in 91 plate appearances.

"My role, for the better part of my career, has always been the same," McDonald said. "You just enjoy coming to the ballpark every day just like I did all the other years. I've played 15 years longer than I thought I would play. I didn't think I was going to get drafted. Every year has been the same -- have fun, appreciate the fact that you're in the big leagues."

Once the Angels made a trade to acquire infielder Gordon Beckham, McDonald's role diminished and ultimately vanished by October, when Beckham made the postseason roster and McDonald didn't.

"This year was great," McDonald said. "I had a role for 162 games. It's awesome. We won 98 games and I was a part of that. There's value in players like me. I'm good with anything. I'm good with whatever happens."

This offseason will mark the fourth time McDonald will be free agent. He signed contracts in November of both '09 and '11 before waiting until January in '14 to sign with the Angels.

"I might get a call in a couple of weeks, find another job," McDonald said. "I don't know. You never know what's going to happen. … Every free agent offseason is like that. What's next? I don't know. Could be something I don't even expect, something I haven't even thought of yet."

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' title quest ends in ALDS heartbreak

Wilson lasts two-thirds of an inning, Halos can't recover

Angels' title quest ends in ALDS heartbreak

KANSAS CITY -- In the wake of the a season-ending, 8-3 loss late Sunday night, and in the middle of a stunned, star-laden visitors' clubhouse that was anticipating a two-night stay, Albert Pujols was asked a variety of questions about the Royals' game-changing defense, his lineup's head-scratching struggles and the Angels' collapse in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Finally the veteran first baseman looked up, cracked a smile and said, "You know what, it wasn't meant to be."

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"That's the simplest way I can put it," Pujols said. "It wasn't meant to be. That's it."

The Angels' triumphant return to the playoffs after a four-your drought -- with a 98-win season that finally met the grand expectations of their payroll -- lasted all of three games.

That's it.

The speedy, hungry, youthful Royals stormed into the ALDS like a freight train, doing all the little things to steal a couple of 11-inning games in Anaheim and then pounding the Angels in front of a sold-out, Kauffman Stadium crowd that wouldn't let a little rain keep them from enjoying their first postseason team in 29 years.

"Not the way we wanted it to end," Mike Trout said, "but give them a lot of credit. They played good baseball. When they needed a big play, they made it. When they needed a big hit, they got it. It's tough."

Starter C.J. Wilson gave up three runs and recorded only two outs, and by the end of the sixth, Angels manager Mike Scioscia had used eight pitchers, a turn of events indicative of the rotation concerns facing his team as it entered October.

Alex Gordon hit a two-out, three-run double in the first, forcing Wilson to exit what was the briefest, non-injury-related postseason start in the Majors since the Cardinals' Rick Ankiel in 2000, and the Angels never recovered.

"I like to think, in general, I can give the team a good start even if I have a bad inning," Wilson said. "But in the situation we were in, with our backs against the wall, there's nothing you can do."

Eric Hosmer, whose 11th-inning two-run homer off Kevin Jepsen won Game 2, hit a two-run shot off Hector Santiago in the third. Mike Moustakas, whose 11th-inning solo homer off Fernando Salas won Game 1, hit a solo shot off Mike Morin in the fifth.

That's four home runs in three ALDS games for a Royals team that hit the fewest in the Majors during the regular season.

"We're running on a high right now," Billy Butler said in his champagne-soaked clubhouse. "We're a hot team. We played well in all facets of the game. That's a great team there. It just shows you the type of baseball we're playing."

Trout, 0-for-8 in his first two ALDS games, gave the Angels their first lead of the series with a solo homer off James Shields in the first. Down, 5-1, in the fourth, Pujols tried to breathe some life into the Angels' dugout with another solo homer.

But the Angels, Major League leaders in runs scored this season, couldn't cash in on premium run-scoring opportunities. They went 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position in this series, and they stranded two runners each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings of the finale.

"Give them credit, for sure," Trout said, "but offensively, we didn't do our jobs."

Often times, though, the Royals' gloves just got in the way.

In Game 1, it was Nori Aoki making a miracle catch against the fence in right-center field, robbing Howie Kendrick of what could've been a game-changing two-run triple in the sixth. In Game 2, it was Jarrod Dyson throwing out pinch-runner Collin Cowgill trying to tag up in the eighth inning of a tied game. In Game 3, it was Lorenzo Cain making two spectacular catches in the fifth, halting any chance of momentum.

With runners on first and second and one out, Cain dove full extension to snag a flair from Pujols just before it hit the ground in left-center field, then sprinted in to catch Kendrick's sinking liner with a sliding catch.

If Can doesn't make those plays "it's a whole new ballgame," Scioscia said.

"That's a good ballclub over there," Kole Calhoun said. "They played well in all facets of the game. Played defense, hit the ball, threw the [heck] out of it."

The Angels lost starting pitchers Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and Garrett Richards (knee surgery) in August, but were nonetheless the first team to clinch a playoff spot, then they won the division with 10 games left and entered the postseason with home-field advantage throughout.

They also went into the ALDS with major questions, because starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker spent the last two weeks rehabbing an oblique strain and Josh Hamilton played in only one of the Angels' last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side.

Shoemaker responded in Game 2, giving up one unearned run in six innings one night after Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of two-run ball. But Hamilton went 0-for-13 and never looked right at the plate.

"Coming into it, the biggest thing was putting the ball in play," Hamilton said. "Tonight I felt like I had some pretty good at-bats. It's a little late for that."

The Angels had their chances in Games 1 and 2, nights when the offense couldn't cash in on some strong pitching and a couple of extra-inning homers burned them. Game 3 then slipped away quickly, the Royals riding the momentum of 40,657 towel-waving fans, and that was it.

"It's a great group of guys in there, and they're feeling it right now," Scioscia said. "There's a definite level of disappointment, but there's nothing they need to hang their heads about. They played hard all season, and we had a rough three games."

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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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

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

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Dipoto believes Angels have built a foundation for success

Halos' GM says wholesale changes won't be needed this offseason

Dipoto believes Angels have built a foundation for success

KANSAS CITY -- The Angels' first-place season came to an abrupt end, with an American League Division Series sweep at the hands of a young, hungry Royals team that outperformed them in every facet of the game.

That three-game stretch, however, wasn't enough to make general manager Jerry Dipoto feel as though drastic changes are necessary this offseason.

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"I can't say enough about how impressive I think the Royals were these last three days, but it doesn't change our group," Dipoto said. "We had a fantastic season, won 98 games. Our desire was to win a world championship, and obviously we fell short, but I still feel really confident in the foundation of the players that were here."

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

The Angels have been defined by the splashy offseason moves in recent years, signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson in December 2011 and Josh Hamilton in December 2012. Last offseason, though, Dipoto made subtle moves to add to the Angels' nucleus, and this coming winter, it may be even quieter.

All nine everyday players are in the books, with catcher Chris Iannetta, second baseman Howie Kendrick and third baseman David Freese -- if tendered a contract -- heading into their final seasons before free agency.

They'll have five set starters in Jered Weaver, Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago and Garrett Richards, who is expected to be fully recovered from knee surgery by Opening Day.

And the bullpen has only two free agents in Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher. Huston Street's 2015 option will be picked up soon; Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Vinnie Pestano and Cory Rasmus, who could be converted to a starting pitcher, will also return.

"We'll continue to find more ways to create more depth on the pitching staff," Dipoto said. "The bench part of our team -- that ninth to 13th, even 15th player -- is going to be a focus of our offseason."

Even if he wanted to add major pieces, Dipoto would have very little wiggle room to do so. The Angels will have less than $10 million left under the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, which has basically been the team's spending limit.

Hamilton will be in the third season of a five-year, $125 million deal. Pujols will be in the fourth season of a 10-year, $240 million deal. And there's a widely held belief from the outside that the Angels' championship window is closing quickly, and that this might have been their final chance to win it all with this nucleus.

Dipoto sees young players throughout the roster -- from Mike Trout to Kole Calhoun to Richards to Morin -- and scoffs at that.

"We're not a team that can't sustain and can't balance what we're doing," Dipoto said. "We like the group of players we have; we feel like we're a well-put-together team. Again, we fell short. Next year, with the full contingent, believing that we will have Garrett Richards back and in large part have a big part of the foundation of this team. We feel we're tweaks and turns from being a very good team again. There's no reason that will change."

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

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Trout's first big postseason moment a footnote in series loss

All-Star homers in first, but Angels give up lead in bottom of inning

Trout's first big postseason moment a footnote in series loss

KANSAS CITY -- Mike Trout's signature postseason moment was short-lived.

It came in the first inning of Game 3 on Sunday, when the superstar center fielder took James Shields deep to left-center field for a solo home run, giving the Angels their first and final lead of this American League Division Series. The next half-inning, the Royals scored three runs, kept adding on and eventually eliminated the Angels with an 8-3 win.

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  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

Now Trout will go back home to South New Jersey and hunt deer, far earlier than he expected to.

"It [stinks]," said Trout, the youngest player in franchise history to hit a postseason home run. "Not what we planned. Great group of guys. We fought to the end, but we fell short."

Trout's home run was his only hit in the ALDS, a series that saw the Angels' entire high-powered offense struggle. The 23-year-old went 0-for-4 with a walk and three shallow flyouts in Game 1, 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout in Game 2 and 1-for-4 with a walk in Game 3, coincidentally recording the final out with a punchout in each of the Angels' last two games.

He'll probably win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award after a regular season in which he batted .287 with 36 homers and 111 RBIs, and he'll have some postseason experience to build on. Trout's biggest takeaway from his first playoff experience was "controlling your emotions," something he often reminded himself about but couldn't always execute.

"Sometimes you hear the crowd going, you want to do so much, and you get out of your approach sometimes," Trout said. "You try to do a little too much, and that's when you get in trouble. It's something you have to work on."

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

Lyle Spencer

Wilson's rough start short-circuits Halos, forces Scioscia's hand

Manager uses seven relievers after lefty can't get out of first

Wilson's rough start short-circuits Halos, forces Scioscia's hand

KANSAS CITY -- The box score for the visitors looked like something out of March in the Cactus League, in Arizona. Eight Angels pitchers against the Royals? In Game 3 of the American League Division Series, with the season on the line?

Yes and yes, and that pretty much says it all in the wake of a distressing 8-3 loss that ended a season of enormous promise with a completely inappropriate thud.

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"The season's ending and we're going home," said C. J. Wilson, who threw all of 23 pitches before departing with a 3-1 deficit. "It's bizarre. Nobody in Spring Training expected we would fail to get out of the first round. We all felt we were a World Series team."

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

They looked the part for six months, winning more games (98) than any team in the Majors, but three bad nights in October ended autumn with a terrible fall, bringing on winter prematurely.

Wilson, so confident he and his team would find a way to reverse the momentum after a pair of 11-inning losses in Anaheim, got two outs in the first inning and then was gone, one strike away from getting out of it, after Alex Gordon's three-run double. The merry-go-round on the mound was about to start rolling around and around.

"The pitch was maybe three inches from where I wanted it," Wilson said of the curveball Gordon sent off the wall in left-center. "It wasn't down the middle. The pitch was on the black. It wasn't a meatball. Sometimes they pop the ball up. Sometimes they hit it hard.

"It is a little surreal. It puts an exclamation point to the fact I couldn't get anything to go my way."

As the door closed on Wilson, it swung open to a bullpen full of pitchers. It turned out the only Angels relievers who didn't pitch were closer Huston Street and setup man Joe Smith.

There were two outs from Vinnie Pestano, four outs from Hector Santiago, three outs from Mike Morin, one out from Fernando Salas. There were three outs from Jason Grilli, one out from Kevin Jepsen and the last eight outs from Cory Rasmus.

It got to a point where it felt more like open auditions than a playoff game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia probably would have summoned club announcers Mark Gubicza and Mark Langston if he could have squeezed them onto the roster.

"When you're faced with an elimination game," said catcher Chris Iannetta, "everything goes. Every pitch, every run, every at-bat is crucial. You're not worried about saving guys. You're doing everything you can to stay in the game."

Before Wilson could find solutions, Scioscia was searching for his own. Arm after arm showed up as Wilson was trying to process what had happened so swiftly after Mike Trout's home run off James Shields seemingly had the Angels finally pointed in a positive direction.

Their first lead of an excruciating series lasted about as long as a TV commercial.

Wilson was on the verge of escaping unscathed, striking out Eric Hosmer on three pitches for the second out after a pair of singles. But Billy Butler walked on four pitches, and when Gordon went the other way with a 2-2 curve, here came Scioscia.

"C.J.'s stuff looked good," Scioscia said. "It just looked like just being able to finish some hitters off was an issue. I think he was behind too many counts and it ended up hurting in that first inning.

"As we talked about before, there's not a long leash pitchers are going to have in a series where it's an elimination game. Unfortunately, we had to try to match up and get out of that first inning, and that was the night for C.J."

Wilson wasn't looking for any help but recognized these were dire straits.

"I like to think in general I'm the kind of guy who can give the team a good start even with a bad inning," Wilson said. "In the situation we're in, backs to the wall, what can I do? It's a little frustrating.

"I walked Butler and turned around and saw Vinnie warming up in the bullpen, and I was a little bit upset. I felt like I made some good pitches, but I didn't get the result. They're hot right now, obviously. That's what happens."

The Royals for three nights were simply better than the AL West champs in every way imaginable. Kansas City's athletes made the spectacular and routine plays with the gloves, manufactured runs with their legs and launched unexpected bombs, and had a pitching staff that brought the most prolific offense in baseball for 162 games to its knees.

In Game 3, Trout and Albert Pujols unloaded homers and Erick Aybar had four hits, but the Angels were 1-for-12 with men in scoring position, underscoring the incredibly frustrating nature of the series.

"It's crazy -- but it's a crazy game," said leadoff catalyst Kole Calhoun, who hit .333 in the series while scoring only one run. "Hopefully, we can bottle up this emotion and use it in the offseason to do everything we can to get further next year.

"It's been awhile since the Angels were in the playoffs. We got a taste. Hopefully, everybody's hungry. We don't want to have this feeling again."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Angels' attempts fended off by Royals' outfield

Angels' attempts fended off by Royals' outfield

KANSAS CITY -- The Angels had seen this show before. As spectacular as it was in living color, they didn't care much for it.

Lorenzo Cain, in back-to-back fifth-inning at-bats with two runners on in Sunday night's Game 3 of American League Division Series, stole hits from Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick in center field with plays that will be replayed on telecasts for decades in the "Show Me State" of Missouri.

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Down by five runs, the Angels thought they had a chance to rally and get back in the game before Cain put the capper on an amazing display of athleticism by the Royals in a three-game sweep completed with this 8-3 decision at Kauffman Stadium.

"When Cain made the catch on Albert [flying headfirst through left-center] and the sliding catch on me [in shallow right-center], it was another case of changing the momentum," Kendrick said. "Those guys made plays all through the series, great plays. We thought we could get back in it there. We had our chances, but it just didn't happen."

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

Angels manager Mike Scioscia also felt things could have turned out differently if Cain hadn't taken flight behind Royals ace James Shields.

"I think it's a whole new ballgame," Scioscia said when asked about the impact of the two catches. "I think it is. It sounds like a broken record from the two games we played out in Southern California and the game here.

"You're probably looking at a one- or two-run game if both those hits drop in, but they didn't. That's part of their team ... their range in the outfield. And it showed up in this series, for sure."

Kendrick was two spectacular catches away -- by Cain and right fielder Nori Aoki -- from having a memorable series. But he's not the kind of guy who dwells on misfortune too long.

"There's a famous saying that when you play with skills, luck will happen," Kendrick said, grinning. "You can never overlook that."

The magic in the Royals outfield began in Game 1 in Anaheim with the first Angels batter of the series. Kole Calhoun crushed a first pitch by Jason Vargas that seemed destined to find him cruising into third base, but Cain climbed the wall in right-center to bring it down.

There was another great play by Cain, taking a hit away from Erick Aybar, before Aoki stole extra bases -- and very likely the game -- from Kendrick and the Angels with a seemingly impossible grab off the wall in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game. Two runs would have scored if it had fallen. The Royals went on to prevail on Mike Moustakas' homer in the 11th inning.

"It's a different series if that ball falls, and a couple others fall," Kendrick said. "It's all about momentum. They won that play-in game against the A's and got the momentum flowing. They carried it right through this series."

The Angels had watched another potential rally fizzle in the fourth inning after Pujols' leadoff homer had trimmed the deficit to 5-2. Kendrick, after narrowly missing the right-field foul pole with a drive, struck out before Aybar doubled -- his second of four hits -- and David Freese was hit by a pitch.

But Josh Hamilton grounded into a force and C.J. Cron struck out, ending the threat.

"They made all the plays," said Aybar, who led the Angels with his .455 batting average in the series. "Cain was running all over the field. They took some big hits from us, but that's part of the game. You have to give them credit. They have some great athletes on that team."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hamilton can't find it in time

Angels veteran goes 0-for-13 in ALDS sweep

Hamilton can't find it in time

KANSAS CITY -- Josh Hamilton never got right.

He spent the four weeks leading up the American League Division Series in an uphill battle, dealing with an ailing right shoulder, fighting sharp pains in the right side of his body and trying to cram a month's worth of timing into three batting-practice sessions during the workouts that preceded the postseason.

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The result: 0-for-13, with two strikeouts and six weak groundouts to the right side.

"I felt like I had pretty good at-bats," Hamilton nonetheless said after his team was eliminated with an 8-3 loss in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Kansas City on Sunday night. "Coming into it, the biggest thing was putting the ball in play. Tonight, I felt like I had some pretty good at-bats. It's a little late for that."

Hamilton, who drove in his only run of the series in the eighth inning on Sunday, became just the seventh player in the Wild Card era to have at least 10 plate appearances in the Division Series and not reach base. His timing was off and some pain lingered, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia stuck with him in the No. 7 spot, holding out hope that some lightning remained in his bat.

Hamilton once again brought up 2010, when he missed a month toward the end of the season, managed only two hits in the ALDS, then was named Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series.

This year, there wasn't an opportunity for that.

Instead, Hamilton's second season with the Angels -- the second of a five-year, $125 million contract -- ended with a .263 batting average, 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 89 regular-season games, and an 0-for in three postseason games.

"Of course it's frustrating," said Hamilton, who won't have to undergo any surgical procedures in the offseason. "I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't. But I'm not going to not do what I can to get back and help the team. Last year ended on a positive note. This year, going to the playoffs is pretty positive. That's something to build off and fuel the fire for next year going to Spring Training."

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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Five things we learned from Royals' ALDS sweep

Five things we learned from Royals' ALDS sweep

KANSAS CITY -- So we know that the Royals are going to play the Orioles in the American League Championship Series, and the winner will be going to the World Series for the first time since the 1980s.

It may end up being the Royals, because this is the third time the Angels have been swept in the AL Division Series. The other two times were by the Red Sox in 2004 and '07. Both of those years, Boston went on to win the World Series.

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  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
Other things we learned on Sunday night after the Royals completed the ALDS sweep with an 8-3 win:

Runners in scoring position futility: The Angels were almost historically bad with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-12 in those situations on Sunday and 2-for-25 in the series. They are one of 21 teams that had two or fewer hits with runners in scoring position in a Division Series. Only three of those teams had more at-bats than the Angels.

Royals can win with power: K.C. hit two home runs on Sunday night. The club was 19-4 during the regular season when it hit two or more homers in a game. The Royals were 14-2 when they hit at least two home runs and stole one or no bases.

Better off in Texas: C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton went to two World Series with the Rangers in 2010-11. The last time they were on a team that won a postseason game was the Rangers in Game 5 of the 2011 World Series against the Cardinals. Wilson lasted just two-thirds of an inning against the Royals on Sunday night, while Hamilton went 0-for-13 in the three games.

You better watch the Butler: Royals designated hitter Billy Butler has just five regular-season stolen bases in his career. His last one came on July 5, 2012. But the Angels elected not to hold him at first after a one-out walk in the third. Butler ended up stealing second.

Center of attention: Each of the three games featured at least one excellent defensive play by a Royals center fielder. Lorenzo Cain made two in the fifth inning on Sunday night. With runners at first and second with one out, Cain angled hard in and to his right to make a diving catch on Albert Pujols' sinking line drive. Then he raced straight in and went to his knees to snag Howie Kendricks' liner. Cain ran off the field to a standing ovation while pitcher James Shields doffed his cap.

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.

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Angels-Royals, Game 3: Did you know?

Angels-Royals, Game 3: Did you know?

Behind a balanced offensive attack and spectacular defense, the Royals beat the Angels, 8-3, on Sunday night, sweeping the American League Division Series. Kansas City will face Baltimore in the AL Championship Series starting Friday.

Here's what you need to know about Kansas City's Game 3 win:

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• The Royals advanced to their first ALCS since 1985, when they won the World Series. They also pushed their playoff record this season to 4-0.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
• It was the first time in Major League history that the team with baseball's best regular-season record was swept in the Division Series.

• Dating back to the regular season, the Angels lost six games in a row to finish their campaign. It was the longest losing streak of the season for them.

• For the Royals, the ALDS was their second series sweep in postseason history, joining the 1980 sweep over the Yankees in the ALCS. The Angels, meanwhile, have now been swept out of the postseason in three of their last six appearances.

• Both Kansas City and Baltimore swept their opponents in the ALDS, marking the fourth time two Division Series in the same league ended in sweeps. It last happened in 2009, when the Yankees and Angels both swept their way to the ALCS.

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer each had two home runs in the ALDS, marking the third time in Royals postseason history the club had two players each hit more than one homer in the same series.

• After connecting on an 11th-inning blast in Game 2, Hosmer hit a two-run homer in Sunday's third inning. He last homered in back-to-back games on July 9-10, and he became the first Royals player to do so in consecutive games in the same postseason.

• In 162 games in the regular season, Royals No. 9 hitters had just one home run. In three games against the Angels in the ALDS, Kansas City's No. 9 hitter (Moustakas) had two homers.

• In their previous 38 games, the Royals had homered twice in a game just once.

Billy Butler stole a base in the bottom of the third inning, his first since July 5, 2012.

• The Angels finished the series hitting just 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined to go 3-for-37 overall.

• Hamilton became just the seventh player in the Wild Card era to not reach base safely in the Division Series (minimum 10 plate appearances). He went 0-for-13.

• The Angels used eight different pitchers on Sunday, the most in franchise history in a postseason game.

C.J. Wilson became just the second starting pitcher in the last 10 postseasons to last less than one inning. Wilson recorded two outs Sunday, allowing three runs on three hits, before he was taken out in the first inning.

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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Oct. 5 Mike Scioscia postgame interview

Oct. 5 Mike Scioscia postgame interview

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Before we start, I want to congratulate the Kansas City Royals. They obviously had a great series. They played terrific baseball, and they deserve to move on. We tip our caps to them, and they had a great series, and they're going to be a team tough to beat in this tournament.

We congratulate them.

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Q. You guys won 98 games this year. What's the feeling with the season ending this abruptly?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, right now it's tough. It stings. You know, we're all feeling this. We expected better results, but as disappointing as the series was and is right now with us, those guys in that clubhouse had a terrific season. They put everything aside. They played banged up. At times we didn't have quite the depth we wanted to and guys would step up and want the ball more in the pen, or guys went out there and played 90 straight games because they knew how important it was. It's a great group of guys in there, and they're feeling it right now. There's a definite level of disappointment, but there's nothing they need to hang their heads about. They played hard all season, and we had a rough three games.

Q. Again having had the best record in the regular season, could you have ever imagined that you would get swept by a team that had to win a Wild Card Game to get in?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Anything happens. Anything happens in the playoffs. You don't go in with any badge saying you won the most games, and you're certainly not going to get any points for that going into the playoffs. We did a lot of things well during the series. We just didn't finish some games off, those guys got some big hits and they beat us. But you have to get your foot in the door. That's what you have to do. We know how tough it is to get your foot in the door. The Royals did it, and they beat us in the series.

Q. What did you see from C.J. Wilson?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I thought his stuff looked okay. I mean, C.J.'s stuff looked good, it just looked like just being able to finish some hitters off was an issue, and I think he was behind too many counts, and it ended up hurting in that first inning. As we talked about before, there's not a long leash pitchers are going to have in a series where it's an elimination game, and unfortunately we had to try to match up and get out of that first inning, and that was the night for C.J.

Q. Back in '02 you guys were a wild card team and you had that momentum train going, beat a 100‑plus win team in the Yankees. Do the Royals have that kind of team where they have the momentum where they're going to be a tough out no matter who they go up against?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, the wild card is totally different. We won 99 games in 2002 and were a Wild Card team. The Wild Card now is set up a little bit different. Basically when we won the Wild Card we had standing as a division champ. We didn't have home field but we had standing as a division champ. And I think it remains to be seen how this Wild Card affects things. I think I don't know when they're going to start the next series, but I think their pitching will get a chance to regroup. I think they'll reset the rotation.

I think any advantage that they lost through the Wild Card should be neutralized now. They should be in good shape for their series. I think it's a totally different thing. They do a lot of things over there that they're going to have to keep doing, you know, as they move forward in the next series. They present a lot of obstacles for a team to try to shut them down. In the first two games they didn't swing the bats, they got key hits at the end. Tonight they swung the bats and just blew the game open. It remains to be seen how they're going to do in the next series, but they played terrific baseball against us and definitely deserve to move on.

Q. How different do you think this game could have gone if Lorenzo Cain doesn't make those two catches in center field?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: I think it's a whole new ballgame. I think it is. It sounds like a broken record from the two games we played out in Southern California and the game here. You're probably looking at a one‑ or two‑run game if both those hits drop in, but they didn't. That's part of their team is their range in the outfield, and it showed up in this series for sure.

Q. What did Kansas City's pitching staff do to slow down your offense so much?

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Well, you know, I mean, I don't think there's any secret about how well their bullpen pitched. That's one of the reasons I think we didn't have a real long leash with C.J. because you don't want to turn the game over too early to their bullpen because they're good, and it ended up that's what happened.

The starters I think threw strikes, relied on their defense, and pitched the way they have all season for those guys. Again, I mean, two close games in Southern California, this one obviously got away from us a little bit, Royals have a terrific pitching staff, and those guys all performed very well for them.

Q. You mentioned that they got key hits in those early games, the games in Anaheim, but they were home runs, and then two home runs tonight. Just how much of a difference ‑‑ that's one thing that you probably wouldn't expect them to do, and they hit four big home runs in the series.

MIKE SCIOSCIA: Right, they stole some bases but it never really factored in any of the games. For a team that was really, coming into the series, I think some of the questions were they don't hit the ball out of the park and they don't draw the ball in their slugging percentage, those guys did not miss mistakes this series. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, when they got pitches to hit, they hit them. I think that some of our guys in the club early in a couple games got some pitches and we missed them. I think we did a better job at the plate in Game 1 and then again tonight, but unfortunately we didn't get enough done.

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Quick hook for Wilson, who can't finish first

Scioscia turns to bullpen with two outs in opening frame after veteran allows three-run double

Quick hook for Wilson, who can't finish first

KANSAS CITY -- Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson could not finish the first inning in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Royals on Sunday night.

Wilson retired just two batters and was knocked out after a three-run double by Alex Gordon. The Angels had taken a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Mike Trout's home run.

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  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
Wilson then started the bottom of the first by getting Alcides Escobar on a groundout. But Nori Aoki and Lorenzo Cain followed with a pair of singles. Wilson struck out Eric Hosmer, but he walked Billy Butler to load the bases. Gordon, who was 4-for-16 in his career against Wilson, then doubled to deep left-center.

That was all for Wilson, as Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in reliever Vinnie Pestano. It was the shortest non-injury-related postseason start since Rick Ankiel lasted two-thirds of an inning in Game 2 of the 2000 National League Championship Series. The Reds' Johnny Cueto recorded just one out in Game 1 of the 2012 NL Division Series, but he exited early because of back spasms.

Wilson's outing also marked the second time in three starts that he lasted just two-thirds of an inning, having done so on Sept. 22 against the Athletics.

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.

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Pick a side: Gubicza has ties to Royals, Angels

Former Kansas City pitcher now works as broadcaster for Los Angeles

Pick a side: Gubicza has ties to Royals, Angels

KANSAS CITY -- Mark Gubicza, the former Royals pitcher and current Angels broadcaster, has been asked the same question a lot lately, whether he's hanging out near the press box or sitting in the stands or standing on the field during batting practice.

"You're rooting for us, right?"

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It's coming from players and coaches on the Angels, and from luminaries from the Royals -- most notably Hall of Famer George Brett -- and Gubicza isn't quite sure what to say. So mostly he'll smile, nod and give them what they want to hear.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

"Yes, yes, I'm rooting for you."

"That's the thing," Gubicza said. "It's weird."

Gubicza was a second-round pick by the Royals in the 1981 First-Year Player Draft. He spent 13 of his 14 Major League seasons in Kansas City, racking up 132 wins, going to two All-Star Games and being part of the World Series-champion 1985 team, also the last Royals club to make the playoffs.

Gubicza was watching the Royals' American League Wild Card Game on TV with his kids and kept pointing out faces in the crowd that he recognized.

"They were like, 'How do you know them, Dad?'" Gubicza recalled. "You know what, I didn't even know if I knew them, but I felt like I knew them because we grew up together and they look exactly the same, as if time had stayed the same from that year [1985]. I felt like I knew every single one of them. It felt that way, at least. They made me feel very comfortable out there."

But Gubicza also spent his final Major League season with the Angels. He makes his home in Southern California, has been providing color commentary on Angels broadcasts for FOX Sports West over the last eight years and has made sure not to wear his World Series ring lately.

"I've forged some pretty good relationships with the guys here, so I think I'm going with these guys to win, the Angels," Gubicza said. "I'm rooting for the Angels."

Not just because they sign his checks?

"No, I don't care about that," Gubicza said. "I always say I'm playing with house money anyway."

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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Mo. money: Pujols hopes to add to KC legend

Mo. money: Pujols hopes to add to KC legend

KANSAS CITY -- It was November 1998 and Chris Mihlfeld, then the head baseball coach at a junior college 20 miles north of Kauffman Stadium, marched into the office of his school's president with a request. A local phenom named Albert Pujols was turning 19 the following January, had already accrued enough credits to graduate from nearby Fort Osage High School and wanted to spend the spring semester playing under Mihlfeld at Maple Woods Community College.

"We were tapped out," Mihlfeld recalled. "We were almost out of scholarships, and I just told him, 'I've got this Christmas present sitting there and he needs a scholarship. You think we can get him some [scholarship] money to get him in school?'"

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And so began what would be the final stage of Pujols' brief-yet-fascinating stint in Kansas City, where he met his current wife, developed as a ballplayer and grew up in this foreign country.

Pujols, getting his first taste of postseason baseball at his former home this weekend, arrived in New York with his father and grandmother in 1996. A couple of months later, after witnessing a shooting at a grocery store, they moved to Independence, Mo., a satellite city of Kansas City where many of Pujols' relatives already lived.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
A Dominican kid, with no sense of English, living out his teenage years in a predominantly white city.

"It was really tough," Pujols said. "Really tough, with my entire family, because of the language barrier. School was tough."

Pujols, now 34, nonetheless has fond memories of his time in Kansas City. He arrived here late Saturday afternoon, as the first baseman of an Angels team down 2-0 in a best-of-five American League Division Series to the upstart, hometown Royals. And he's left about 80 tickets for family and friends to Sunday's do-or-die Game 3, 4:30 p.m. PT on TBS.

"It was a great experience, being from that area and having a place there, my family," Pujols said. "I'm looking forward to being there again."

Sunday will mark Pujols' 44th game at Kauffman Stadium as a player, but his most vivid memory of this place came as a fan, when he attended his first Major League game on June 10, 1997, and sat behind home plate to watch Angels center fielder Jim Edmonds make his iconic, diving, over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track.

"When I saw that game, I knew I could play against those guys," Pujols said. "I was just in high school at the time. I was being a little cocky."

Shortly after giving him a scholarship to Maple Woods, Mihlfeld took a job as the Dodgers' strength-and-conditioning coordinator in January 1999, leaving Marty Kilgore and Kyle McCune to coach Pujols through his first and only season of collegiate baseball. He arrived with a head full of curly hair; "a little soft in the middle," but big, strong and with massive hands, as Mihlfeld described.

And then, just like that, he was gone. The Cardinals took him in the 13th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft in June, and one year later, Pujols was on his way to becoming a star.

"You can't sit there and say you thought he was going to be Rookie of the Year and do all the amazing things he's done, that's for sure," Mihlfeld said. "Anybody who wants to take credit for that is full of garbage."

Pujols hit .471 and led Fort Osage to a state championship as a sophomore in 1997. The next season, he hit .600 with eight homers in 33 at-bats, but was walked 55 times, and scouts urged him to spend what would've been his senior season of high school baseball in college, in hopes that he would actually get some pitches to hit.

The first thing Kilgore noticed was that "there was a little different sound coming off his bat."

Pujols hit .466 with 22 home runs and 76 RBIs as a full-time shortstop in that 1999 season. He converted an unassisted triple play and hit a grand slam on opening day, driving the ball through what Kilgore described as a 30-mph wind in left-center field. But scouts couldn't identify a position for Pujols. He didn't have the speed to stay at shortstop, his swing was a little too long, and there were perpetual questions about his age.

"You never knew what he was going to do," Kilgore said, "but you knew he was a special talent. He had a drive, and work ethic, and a quiet confidence about himself. And the balls he hit, with a metal bat -- my goodness, man."

Mihlfeld recently found himself at the center of controversy, when former Major Leaguer Jack Clark alleged in an off-the-cuff radio rant that Mihlfeld used to give Pujols steroids. Pujols and Mihlfeld vehemently denied those claims, with Pujols going so far as to file a defamation lawsuit that was dropped after Clark retracted his comments and apologized in February.

Mihlfeld and Pujols remain close. A few years ago, Pujols helped open Mihlfeld's Kansas City training facility, Millhouse Baseball. And every winter from 1999 to 2012, they worked together, skipping it this year because Mihlfeld had some health problems.

They'd hit, lift, run and take ground balls. In later years, it would be for only a few weeks in St. Louis. Early on, it was a couple months at their former college campus.

"There wasn't a ton of talking," Mihlfeld said. "It was just get in there, do the work. They say he's a machine, and I hate to kiss his [butt] a little bit, but he is. He's a workaholic. He knows what it takes."

In Pujols' first and only year in the Minor Leagues, Class A Peoria manager Tom Lawless, most recently the Astros' interim manager after Bo Porter was dismissed, frequently fined Pujols $50 for not being able to get from home to first in 5.5 seconds. Today, Pujols laughs at that, citing Lawless as a major influence in his career.

But back then, Mihlfeld said, "anything he wouldn't do really, really good would just drive him crazy."

"Everything he does he takes a lot of pride in. One time I was at his house and he was scrubbing the dishes. I'm like, 'Dude, you don't have to scrub the porcelain off the dish.' Everything he does he just wants to do very good. I guess that's why he became so darn good."

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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Code blue: Angels on edge after KC strikes again

Halos face 2-0 ALDS deficit thanks to another 11th-inning homer

Code blue: Angels on edge after KC strikes again

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Jepsen let the fastball go, watched it groove right into Eric Hosmer's swing path, heard the crack of the bat, turned his head and, for a very brief moment, held out faint hope that it wasn't the drive that would put his Angels on the brink of elimination in the American League Division Series.

"You're sitting there hoping it doesn't go out, but you really know it's going to happen," Jepsen said in a somber home clubhouse after the Angels' 4-1 loss to the Royals late Friday night. "Your stomach falls."

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Hosmer's two-run shot was the dagger in another tight, low-scoring, extra-inning game that the Angels lost on an 11th-inning home run by the upstart Royals. Hosmer did to Jepsen what Mike Moustakas did to Fernando Salas the night before, putting the Angels in a 2-0 ALDS hole on a night when their high-powered offense -- not to mention an anxious, sold-out crowd -- was once again silenced.

Since the Wild Card first came into play in 1995, 17 teams lost the first two games of a Division Series at home. Only two of them -- the 2012 Giants and the 2001 Yankees -- came back to win that series. The Angels must win out, with the next two games coming at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and Sunday's Game 3 being pitched by C.J. Wilson, coming off his worst season as a starting pitcher and matching up against the Royals' ace, a man they call "Big Game" James Shields.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia met with his team after the game, to reinforce what they already knew.

"Nobody has their head buried in the sand," he said. "We need a three-game winning streak. That's really what we need to do. But our guys are determined."

The Angels' biggest concern going into the postseason was their starting rotation, and perhaps that's what makes these two losses so disheartening. They didn't just come at Angel Stadium, where the Angels established themselves as the best home team in baseball -- they came despite very good starts by their two best starting pitchers.

One night after Jered Weaver battled with Jason Vargas with seven innings of two-run ball, Matt Shoemaker dueled with electric rookie Yordano Ventura, giving up only one unearned run in six innings despite spending the better part of the last three weeks rehabbing from an oblique strain.

None of it mattered.

"K.C. is on fire," Angels third baseman David Freese said of a team that's in the postseason for the first time in 29 years. "They're making the plays, getting timely hits, and doing what they need to do to take two games. They've beaten a tough team twice, in their own park. They deserve it."

Twenty-two innings have been played in the first two games of this ALDS, only a combined 22 hits have been recorded, and only one of those has come from the vaunted trio of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

Pujols got the Angels on the board with a two-out RBI single in the sixth, but that was the only offensive highlight. Hamilton, who played in only one of the Angels' last 23 regular-season games due to ailments in his right shoulder and right side, is 0-for-9 in this series and heard boos throughout the night, especially when he grounded into a 3-6-3 double play to end the 10th. Trout struck out to end the game, making him 0-for-8.

"It's tough," Trout said. "Just didn't get that big hit tonight, and they did. Take it one game at a time and play Sunday. If you lose, you go home."

Thursday's loss was greatly impacted by a miracle catch from Nori Aoki, who leaped under Lorenzo Cain in right-center field to rob Howie Kendrick of what could've been a two-run triple in the sixth inning. Friday's big play came in the eighth inning, when pinch-runner Collin Cowgill was thrown out by center fielder Jarrod Dyson trying to tag up to third base.

Scioscia called it "a great play," and said he hopes Cowgill goes again the next time he's presented with the situation. It was a tied game with one out, but the top of the order was due up next, and Dyson was already charging in on Chris Iannetta's liner.

"He made a good play, man," Cowgill said. "Chalk it up to that."

Jepsen, who followed Huston Street's first two-inning outing in three years, came in for the top of the 11th of a 1-1 game and gave up a one-out infield single to Cain. Jepsen's next pitch, a 95-mph fastball, sailed right down the middle, and Hosmer ambushed it.

"I just knew I got a good swing on it, and it felt good," said Hosmer, whose homer made the Royals the first team to win three consecutive extra-inning games in the postseason, counting their AL Wild Card win over the A's.

The Royals scored another run on Salvador Perez's RBI single off Vinnie Pestano, but the Angels were out of it with one Jepsen fastball.

"I was just trying to make a good pitch, fastball down and away," Jepsen said. "I left it middle and he jumped on it. It's one of those things. I missed, he didn't."

And now, if the Angels want to advance, they can't miss.

Their season -- one that saw them reach the postseason for the first time in four years, and finish with baseball's best record -- will end with their next loss. They'll take it one game at a time, as they always say, and they'll think back to how they've persevered before, most notably when Garrett Richards went down on Aug. 20.

"There's nobody in this clubhouse with their head down," Pujols said. "We know what we can do, and we did it this year. We just need to get that little break here and there to get us going."

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

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Hamilton hears it as 'Big Three' continue to struggle

Hamilton hears it as 'Big Three' continue to struggle

ANAHEIM -- The boos rained down on Josh Hamilton as he stood at first base following his inning-ending double play that had just quashed a potential Angels rally in the 10th inning.

Realistically, the entire Angels offense has struggled in the American League Division Series, specifically in key situations. As a whole, they came out of Friday night's 4-1 loss in 11 innings to the Royals in Game 2 just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. It's the main reason they find themselves down two games to none, heading to Kansas City.

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  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video
But understandably, the focus will shift to the club's trio of stars -- Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hamilton -- who have combined to go 1-for-25 in the series.

"There's obviously more pressure, but you can't put it on yourself," Trout said. "You've just got to go out there and play baseball. Just keep doing what got you here."

Yes, Trout and Pujols have struggled mightily this series, but it was Hamilton taking the brunt of the Angel Stadium crowd's frustration. With his 0-for-4 night Friday, Hamilton is now hitless in nine at-bats this series.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia wasn't ready to place the blame on any of his stars, given the entire team's woes at the dish.

"I think it's unfair to focus on one guy in looking at us," Scioscia said,. "We haven't scored many runs this series."

Scioscia's decision to stick with Hamilton, meanwhile, came down to his belief that Hamilton's bat could get hot at the right time.

"It's definitely worth playing Josh out now to see where it's going to lead," Scioscia said before the game.

But Hamilton played just once in the regular season's final 23 games because of injuries to his right shoulder and right side. He hasn't looked himself in the ALDS, and the injuries could certainly be a factor.

Perhaps no moment better demonstrated Hamilton's struggles than his ninth-inning at-bat in Game 1. With the potential winning run on second, he took a pitch in the dirt, before swinging and missing badly on three straight pitches. The final whiff came on a changeup that he missed by several inches and ended up flailing at because he was so far out in front.

Hamilton had a chance to redeem himself in the 10th inning in Game 2, with the winning run on base once again. But he weakly bounced to first base and couldn't beat out a 3-6-3 double play.

Trout and Pujols had their chances as well, and the pair came through in the sixth inning. Trout worked a walk behind a Kole Calhoun single, and Pujols followed with an RBI single to right.

But that was the only offense from the trio -- in which the Angels have invested more than half a billion dollars -- produced all night.

"People think that the postseason is a huge difference from the regular season," said Pujols. "You make a huge difference if you want. To me, it's still a game."

As for whether Pujols thinks the big moment has somehow altered the approaches of Trout and Hamilton.

"You need to ask them, not me," he said. "Wrong person."

After receiving treatment for his various injuries, Hamilton left the ballpark without returning to the clubhouse to do interviews.

Trout, meanwhile, is convinced that the Angels' offense isn't that far off.

"We're having good at-bats," Trout said. "We're just missing our pitches. It's tough, but we've just got to turn the page."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Oct. 5 Weaver pregame interview

Oct. 5 Weaver pregame interview

Q. Jered, you haven't pitched on three days' rest in a long time. What do you remember about those games back in 2011, and what do you think will be different?

JERED WEAVER: You know, it's not an easy thing to do. Obviously you're kind of stuck on a routine on five days, but at the same time, like you said, I've had some opportunities to do it. I think I kind of didn't do so good in the first one, kind of threw well in the second one. It's definitely an adjustment, but I'm feeling pretty good towards the end of the season here and felt good playing catch yesterday, and going to get off the mound a little bit, just a little flat ground stuff off the mound today. I'm ready to take the ball whenever they want to give it to me. I think the adrenaline will take over the rest part of it. I think I'll be all right.

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Q. How anxious of a time is it for you given that obviously you want to get the ball whenever you can, but not knowing if you'll be able to pitch tomorrow?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, obviously we're not in a spot that we want to be in, but I think there's teams that have come back and done some special things. I'm thinking that we've got the guys in that clubhouse to be able to do something like that. We're not hanging our heads. We know what's ahead of us, and we've got ‑‑ like Sciosch was saying, we've got to win three in a row, go on a three‑game winning streak and do whatever we can to get this back to Anaheim. Obviously they've got a tough guy on their side on the mound. Hopefully his changeup is hanging today so we can do some damage, but we've got a good guy on our side, too. Obviously he's had some postseason experience before, and we're looking forward to getting out there and taking this one from him and hopefully get to that next game.

Q. Do you take any kind of a different mindset into an elimination game versus otherwise?

JERED WEAVER: I'm going to cheer just as hard on the bench today as I would if we were up 2‑0. I don't really have too much of an effect on the game today, but I'm going to root the guys on and try to keep these guys motivated. I think that the clubhouse is positive, as much as it could be negative right now. Everybody kept their heads up, and like I said, we've got a good group of guys in that clubhouse, and we're going to battle until the end, as long as we have a chance. We're going to take this game one step at a time and try to keep bouncing back and try to push on and push through this.

Q. You've talked about how much you feel stronger now than you had last year and earlier this year. When do you feel that? Is it while you're pitching or between starts, or when do you really notice that difference?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, that's a tough question. I just think the fatigue factor isn't as much of an issue just because I have gotten some strength back. I've been trying to, like I've told you guys, working hard to get back to where I know I can be, and we've seen some signs of it here towards the end of the season. It was a process trying to figure this thing out. I wasn't having too much fun going up there throwing 83‑mile‑an‑hour fastballs. I wanted to do whatever I could, training-wise and training‑room-wise, to get back to where I know I can be, and I feel like I've been making a lot of strides here towards the end of the season.

Just during the games, the fatigue factor doesn't quite set in as early as it did early on in the season. I feel like I get stronger towards the end of the games and just feel stronger going into starts. Before it was a little bit frustrating not feeling ‑‑ even playing catch, stuff wasn't feeling right. You know, it's, like I said, a long process, and I feel a lot better here towards the end of the season.

Q. You mentioned the clubhouse was positive. How would you characterize this series so far? Do you feel like it's missed opportunities for you guys or running into a team with a lot of belief right now because of how they got to the ALDS?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, obviously two extra‑inning games, there was some opportunities on both sides. Those guys capitalized when they needed to. We realized that we missed out on some stuff. I think in that first game, we hit some balls hard, and those guys made some pretty good catches in the outfield. You know, that could have really easily gone the other way, but you've got to tip your caps to those guys on the other side. They're playing real well. They've got a lot of momentum and a good group of young guys that aren't going to give up, either.

Like you said, missed opportunities on both sides. They've just come through with that big hit when they needed to.

Q. You had one or two extra days of rest each of your last three starts. Do you think that can help you pitch on three‑days' rest tomorrow?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, you know, I think, like you guys said, the start before, you asked if I thought having extra days was a good thing or a bad thing. I think obviously it's a good thing to get some guys healed up, but momentum‑wise it's kind of tough to turn it back on. I think that, yeah, it did help a little bit to kind of take a little bit of stress off and get some extra days' rest. But regardless, like I said, pitching on three‑days' rest is very obtainable with the factor of how much adrenaline you're going to have going into the game.

I think that the adrenaline will take over the rest part of it.

Q. Did you get a chance to do anything on your birthday?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, I was on a flight. It was awesome. It was great. Blew out some candles on the plane. I had a nice dinner with my wife and mom and dad and Jason and Shelly Vargas came along with, too. It was nice to be able to catch up with them and have a nice dinner. It was a good birthday.

Q. The Royals haven't been real consistent offensively, but what are some of the threats they pose, especially with the baserunning?

JERED WEAVER: Yeah, I mean, our game plan is to try to keep those guys off the bases. We saw what they can do in that Wild Card Game. I think that we've paid pretty close attention to pick‑offs and trying to pitch out and things of that nature, but a couple guys on their bench, even though you try to slow it down, it doesn't really matter, because you saw that steal against Huston Street there with one of their guys, and speed kills sometimes, you know. There's certain things you can't really do to slow that down, but just try to keep them off the bases, and like I said, before, Sciosch is pretty good at picking up when people are going to steal and things of that nature. He was obviously a catcher in his day, and the running game was a big part of our game when I first came up.

We're going to rely on him a lot, too, and I think we've slowed it down to a certain extent. We haven't seen seven stolen bases in a game, so that's good. You know, just try to keep them off the bases as much as possible, and when they do, just try to slow the running game down as best we can.

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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Rookie arms deliver in Game 2 ALDS duel

Royals' Ventura, Angels' Shoemaker match each other pitch for pitch before exiting

Rookie arms deliver in Game 2 ALDS duel

ANAHEIM -- Yordano Ventura, the kid from the Dominican Republic with the golden arm, was throwing 100 mph fastballs in the seventh inning. Looking like a new-age Pedro Martinez, Ventura is the best $28,000 investment the Kansas City Royals ever made.

Matt Shoemaker, shut down for 18 days with an oblique injury, was hitting corners up and down the strike zone. The man from Michigan kept the Angels in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday night before Eric Hosmer lowered the boom in the 11th inning of a 4-1 victory that has the homeward-bound Royals one win away from the AL Championship Series.

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"This is playoff baseball," the Angels' Albert Pujols said. "It's about pitching. Our starting pitching has given us opportunities to win games."

The Royals' arms and gloves having stonewalled them. Here stand the Angels, with the best regular-season record in the Majors, on the brink of elimination. The most productive offense in the game has produced three runs in 22 playoff innings.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

"We just have to win [Game 3] on Sunday," Mike Trout, hitless in the series, said.

Ventura and Shoemaker were gone when Hosmer unloaded his two-run blast, but the rookie right-handers managed to deliver the gripping duel that escaped a pair of more heralded parties north on Interstate 5, at Dodger Stadium, in the National League Division Series.

Unlike Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright in a slugfest taken by the Cards, Ventura and Shoemaker were in full command, keeping their game at 1-1 by frustrating hitters with power, command and guile.

"That was some electric stuff," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said when asked about Ventura. "He's got a great arm, and Matty matched him pitch for pitch. We just couldn't get it done late."

Shoemaker showed no rust, filling up the strike zone.

"He did great," teammate David Freese said. "It's kind of, here we go again, Shoe. It's what he does. It's what he's done all year. And he gave us a chance to win."

The Royals' run off Shoemaker in the second inning was unearned. An error by right fielder Kole Calhoun on Hosmer's leadoff single was cashed in by Alex Gordon with an RBI single.

The Angels finally struck with two down in the sixth. Calhoun atoned for his error with his second single. Trout turned an 0-2 count into a walk, and Pujols lashed a 100-mph heater through the right side of the infield to bring Calhoun home.

"If you're a guy who doesn't throw 100 [mph]," Shoemaker said, grinning, "you wonder what it feels like."

Scioscia credited Shoemaker, equipped with four quality pitches and rare poise, with saving the Angels' season with his brilliant second half. The 28-year-old veteran of six Minor League seasons broke through in storybook fashion, filling a huge void left when good buddy Garrett Richards went down for the season on Aug. 20.

Shoemaker finished 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA, holding opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 18 of his 20 starts. His only bad outing had come against these Royals, who cuffed him around for eight runs on June 27.

Shoemaker's regular season ended on Sept. 15 when he felt the rib-cage strain while dispatching the Mariners. There was concern among the faithful that he wouldn't make it back for the postseason, but he went to work and made it happen.

"Everything was working, for the most part," Shoemaker said. "I was trying to attack the zone and feel I executed it pretty well. My goal every day is to put up zeros and give our team a chance to win."

Ventura, from the resort town of Samana, looked like a guy without a care in the world in the interview room on Thursday.

"Wow, what a job he did," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He threw fastballs at 101 miles an hour, two-seamers at 97 miles an hour. He threw cutters at 96 miles an hour ... threw a couple of great changes and really had a good curveball to keep them off-balance.

"You saw Ventura tonight -- a kid with tremendous composure on the big stage, a kid that competes his heart out with tremendous stuff. He gave us everything he had to give. What an effort."

Signed for $28,000 at 17, Ventura filled out and watched his fastball explode from the high 80s to triple digits by refining his delivery. He was 14-10 in 31 outings with a 3.20 ERA as a rookie, with a ceiling somewhere in the clouds.

"Truthfully, a lot of our more successful signs all that I've been a part of were guys that didn't get a lot of money," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said in reference to Ventura's emergence.

The big money is coming for Ventura, who has the distinct look of an ace.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Lagging offense puts bullpen in tough spot

For second straight game, relievers give up winning run in extras

Lagging offense puts bullpen in tough spot

ANAHEIM -- The Angels' bullpen has been good this series -- just not good enough.

For the second consecutive night, the reliable relief corps gave up an 11th-inning home run, this one a two-run shot by Eric Hosmer off Kevin Jepsen, as the Royals won, 4-1, Friday to take a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series. On Thursday, Mike Moustakas smashed a solo homer off Fernando Salas to lift Kansas City to a Game 1 victory.

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The Angels bullpen has given up just three earned runs in nine innings across the first two games of the ALDS -- they just happened to be the game-deciding runs. Before Hosmer's home run, the Kansas City offense had scratched out just one hit in the previous 4 1/3 innings against Angels relievers.

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

"Our pitching staff has been incredible," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You lose a couple games late, and everyone's going to point to what happened in the 11th inning. These guys have been pitching their butts off and doing a great job, and we just haven't been able to get what we need done on the offensive side."

Jepsen was one of the Angels' best relievers in the regular season, settling into the seventh-inning role as he posted 65 scoreless appearances and a 2.63 ERA. He had only given up four home runs in the regular season and just one since the All-Star break.

"It's one of those ones you want back," Jepsen said. "As soon as you let it go, it's almost like slow motion. You see it going right where you don't want it. Like I said, sometimes they pop up, sometimes they roll over, but in games like this, good hitters like him, he didn't miss."

The Royals were last in the Majors with 95 home runs but have outshined the Angels' high-powered attack that led the Majors in runs scored. The Angels' offense has scored just three runs in 22 innings, and hasn't handed a lead to one of the AL's best bullpens.

In the second half of the regular season -- after the Angels had acquired Jason Grilli and Huston Street to fix their bullpen issues -- the 'pen led the AL in innings, FIP and WAR. They posted an ERA of 3.12.

But they'll head to Kansas City with an 0-2 record and two losses in the battle of the bullpens in this series.

"The bullpen, we think when we come in, we're going to leave the game right where we left it," Jepsen said. "It doesn't always happen that way but our mentality is that where we come into the game is where we should leave it going out."

Through 10 innings, that was how the bullpen left it. Four times Angels relievers started an inning and four times they put up a zero.

That included Street, who pitched two innings Friday, his longest outing since April 8, 2011, when he was a member of the Rockies. He hadn't pitched more than an inning in a postseason game since 2006, with Oakland.

"They asked me if I could go back out and I said 'Absolutely,'" Street said. "Are you kidding me? We have an off-day tomorrow. Everyone just wants to go out there and compete, every single person. When you've got a chance, this is what you play for.

"If they'd have let me go back out there for a third, I'd have gone back out. You're going to keep going out there and battling."

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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Cowgill's aggressive baserunning backfires, but earns praise

Cowgill's aggressive baserunning backfires, but earns praise

ANAHEIM -- When Collin Cowgill got thrown out at third base in the eighth inning of Friday night's American League Division Series, momentum shifted -- in the inning and the game -- from the Angels to the Royals.

After C.J. Cron doubled to lead off the inning in a tie game, the speedy Cowgill came off the bench to pinch-run for the slow-footed rookie designated hitter. Chris Iannetta followed with a line drive to center field, where Jarrod Dyson caught it and fired to third, chopping down Cowgill after he tried to tag on the play.

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"He made a good play, man," Cowgill said. "Chalk it up to that."

  Date Time Matchup/Result Network
Gm 1 Oct. 2   KC 3, LAA 2 video
Gm 2 Oct. 3   KC 4, LAA 1 video
Gm 3 Oct. 5   KC 8, LAA 3 video

Dyson entered the game in the bottom of the eighth inning and continued Kansas City's defensive clinic in the ALDS, which the Royals lead 2-0 after Friday's 4-1 extra-innings win.

"That's part of the game," Cowgill said. "You take a chance. I got thrown out. That's baseball."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it was a "great play" by Cowgill to try to take the extra base and that he went on his own instead of being sent by third-base coach Gary DiSarcina.

"But if that would happen again tomorrow or Sunday, I'm hoping Collin's going to go," Scioscia said. "That's a huge base to get, and there is no doubt you want to pressure them in that situation. Dyson just made an incredible defensive play, and we saw it again tonight."

With one pitch, an inning that started with the leadoff runner at second base had become a mundane two-out, nobody-on situation for the Royals. Kole Calhoun grounded out to second to end the last real threat for the Angels.

"That was a big-time play," said Eric Hosmer, who hit a two-run home run in the 11th inning. "He gave us a lot of momentum ... and really woke the guys up. Anytime you make a big play like that it definitely shifts the momentum to our dugout."

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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