Angels won't let up in final week

Angels won't let up in final week

ARLINGTON -- The finish line is in sight for the Angels, but they won't be pulling up short in Usain Bolt-like fashion to celebrate the fact they have left their American League West competition coughing in the dust.

Not on manager Mike Scioscia's watch.

"It has been like that ever since I've been here, so I'd say it starts with Scioscia," relief pitcher Scot Shields said. "There've been a lot of guys leave and a lot of guys come in, but it's always been the same. Then again, [the front office has] made sure to bring in players who fall in line with that mentality, too."

With seven games to go, the Angels are just four victories shy of the franchise's first 100-win season. They're a season-high 37 games over .500 and 21 1/2 games ahead of the next team in their division.

"We definitely are aiming for it," Torii Hunter said. "We want 100 wins. You can't say any of us are satisfied just yet."

The Angels also have the best record in baseball. Leading the Rays by 3 1/2 games for the best record in the American League, the Angels' magic number to clinch home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs is five.

As badly as the Angels want home field for the playoffs, Hunter said the team hasn't been scoreboard watching.

"We've just been rooting for [the Rays] to hang on," Hunter said. "They've been down for so long, I'm happy for them."

That might sound odd, but under the guidance of Scioscia, the Angels have been able to find the right clubhouse recipe for success since winning their first division championship with Scioscia at the helm in 2004.

"They're all different. Every team is different," Garret Anderson said. "We've never had any issues. We've always had a pretty good core group of guys that go out and take care of [business]."

So what's different about the Angels this season compared to seasons past?

"No disrespect to the other teams, but there's more talent in this room," Shields said. "We have a really good clubhouse atmosphere, and there are no egos."

While the players gave Scioscia credit for the positive clubhouse atmosphere, Scioscia, himself, downplayed the importance of clubhouse chemistry.

"Clubhouse chemistry is something to consider," Scioscia said. "It's there. If you're winning, it helps, but clubhouse chemistry is secondary to on-field chemistry. It's not a necessary factor to achieving."

So Scioscia's main focus is on the on-field chemistry.

He described the Angels' battery chemistry as "sensational," but due to injuries up and down the lineup and around the infield, he wasn't as sure of the club's offensive and defensive chemistry.

That being the case, much of the emphasis of the last week of the regular season will be the Angels setting up their rotation for the postseason.

If the Angels finish with the best record in the league, they'll have the choice of beginning their Division Series on Oct. 1, which includes an extra off-day, or Oct. 2.

When the Angels find out who they'll be playing, the date they choose also could significantly affect their opponent, but Scioscia will be looking at his own staff first and foremost.

"You look in-house first, but there's certainly consideration to see where another team's rotation works out," Scioscia said. "That's going to be less important than making sure you have your guys where you want them to be."

Scioscia has yet to decide on either a three- or four-man rotation for the playoffs, but the Oct. 1 series would be more conducive to a three-man rotation for the Angels. That likely would include John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders.

Although Scioscia may not be spilling the beans on his postseason plans, his attention to detail and leadership has gained the full allegiance of his clubhouse.

"I hope I never get a chance to see another locker room," Shields said.

Monday, at Mariners, 7:10
Ervin Santana (15-6, 3.33) vs. Ryan Rowland-Smith (4-2, 3.53)

Tuesday, at Mariners, 7:10
Jered Weaver (11-10, 4.16) vs. Ryan Feierabend (1-4, 7.25)

Wednesday, at Mariners, 7:10
Jon Garland (14-8, 4.79) vs. Felix Hernandez (9-11, 3.37)

Thursday, at Mariners, 7:10
TBA vs. Carlos Silva (4-15, 6.46)

Friday, vs. Rangers, 7:05
John Lackey (12-4, 3.25) vs. Vicente Padilla (13-8, 4.85)

Saturday, vs. Rangers, 6:05
TBA vs. Scott Feldman (5-8, 5.45)

Sunday, vs. Rangers, 12:35
TBA vs. Kevin Millwood (9-9, 5.15)

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