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Angels catch their breath, 'ready to go'

Gloves recharged, Angels believe

ANAHEIM -- For the lion's share of the season, the Angels have played defense at an exceptionally high level, taking their place among the Majors' best.

Uncharacteristic misplays on their recent three-city, seven-game journey to the opposite coast and Texas produced angry words from Torii Hunter and John Lackey. The basic idea from both team leaders was to point out that this is no time for a loss of focus or concentration on important matters such as catching the ball and throwing it accurately.

"That's not us," Hunter said. "We play the game right. This team makes the plays. We don't beat ourselves."

Even Hunter, the eight-time Gold Glove winner in center field, committed an error on the trip, sailing a throw over second with no backup there to save him. It ended a streak of 265 errorless games.

"That [one-week] trip felt like two weeks," Hunter said. "New York to Boston to Texas, seven games in seven days ... that's rough, man."

After a home series vs. the Yankees, the Angels finally got a break on Thursday, their final day off of the season. Their magic number at four heading into Friday night's first of three home dates with the Athletics, the Angels feel energized and ready to resume their high-quality play.

"A nice, high energy level," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Everybody's ready to go."

Scioscia has raved about his defense all season. It has been consistent with flashes of brilliance, with two Gold Glove candidates on the left side of the infield -- third baseman Chone Figgins and shortstop Erick Aybar -- along with the master, Hunter.

"It's huge," Scioscia said. "It's been a big part of our ability to do some of the things we've done. When our pitching wasn't as crisp, we were making some plays.

"Plays are going to slip away occasionally. We had some the last handful of games, but defense is a plus for us. I feel strongly about that."

In the American League, the Angels are now tied with the Red Sox and Yankees for third in overall fielding percentage at .986 behind artificial-turf teams Minnesota and Toronto. The Angels had been third on their own almost all season before the recent slippage.

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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