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Sunday, September 18, 2011
Angels 11, Orioles 2: Three Up, Three Down

By Mark Saxon

The Angels' offense snapped out of its funk and erupted in Baltimore, giving Jered Weaver all the support he needed to pick up his 18th win on short rest, as the Angels won 11-2 Sunday to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.

The win got the Angels to within four games of the Boston Red Sox in the wild-card race and to within four of the Texas Rangers in the AL West pending the outcome of Texas' game in Seattle.

The Good:

Career day. Erick Aybar has been a force at the top (or bottom) of the Angels' lineup since he emerged from his August funk, but Sunday was in an entirely different category. Aybar, a defensive whiz at shortstop, had never done anything like this. He went 4-for-4 with two home runs, five runs and four RBIs. He already has doubled his career high for home runs (10) and is making up for a down offensive season last year.

Weaver can cruise. This was the perfect game for Weaver to pitch on three days' rest, because he was able to wrap up a fairly efficient afternoon after six innings and 97 pitches without Mike Scioscia worrying about a bullpen implosion. Now, Weaver can make two more starts on regular rest, the final of which would be at home against Texas in the season finale. In a normal season, Weaver would be at the front of the pack in Cy Young talk, but Justin Verlander looks like he's running away with it.

Wells respite. When this season is over, Vernon Wells is going to have to answer some difficult questions about why he played so far below his career norms in his first season with a new team, but Sunday was a break from all that angst. He hit his 22nd home run, one of two hits, and got his average "up" to .219.

The Bad:

Beanings. It's always hard to discern a pitcher's intent when he throws up and in to a batter, but Baltimore's Mark Reynolds guessed that Ervin Santana had bad intentions when he hit him in Saturday's game. That led to a bit of hostility Sunday, with umpires warning both teams, but reliever Brad Bergesen looked distraught after he hit Jeff Mathis in the helmet (and umpire Laz Diaz elected not to eject him). It was a scary moment and, thankfully, Mathis was OK.

Schedule. The Angels probably wished the Orioles well after Sunday's game, because Baltimore could open a back door to the playoffs -- though it's quite a longshot. The Red Sox are reeling, but their diehard fans have this to fall back on: Seven of their final 10 games are against last-place Baltimore. Maybe Buck Showalter can get his team to play with as much passion in those games as they did against the Angels over the weekend. Tampa Bay, the second-place team in the wild card, has six left against the best team in the league, the New York Yankees.

Schedule II. The Angels would love to be alive for a playoff spot entering that Sept. 26-28 series at home against Texas, but that's going to be tough to pull off. The Angels have gone 10-12 against their intervening opponents while Texas has gone 22-9 against the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's. Anything is possible, but the wild card could be a more likely avenue, tricky as that route seems.