Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Rangers 3, Angels 1: Three Up, Three Down
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- Mike Napoli continued to torment his former team and set his current team up for what could be a deep playoff run.
Napoli homered twice Wednesday, including the towering two-run shot in the ninth inning that gave the Texas Rangers a 3-1 win, allowing them to open the playoffs at home. Napoli hit six home runs at Angel Stadium this season, just three fewer than the man he was traded for, Vernon Wells.
Audition time: Garrett Richards finally got to show the Angels what he can offer them. He had struggled in his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, then injured his groin in his second start against the Rangers. Richards, 23, came out of the bullpen to make Wednesday's start after Mike Scioscia decided to rest Jered Weaver and largely dominated. Other than a long home run to Mike Napoli, Richards cruised through five innings. He could be in competition with Tyler Chatwood for a rotation spot next spring.
Support. Despite two straight seasons in which the Angels didn't reach the post-season, their fans continued to show up. The final tally: 3,166,321 tickets sold, according to the team. Soon, the Angels might have to start winning something to keep their momentum going.
Status intact: Who knows, maybe the Angels can win two Rookie of the Year awards in a row. Mark Trumbo is in the running this season and Mike Trout will still qualify as a rookie in 2012. Trout finished strong after a rough September, getting three hits in his final two games.
Bad taste. The end of this season couldn't have been much worse for rookie closer Jordan Walden, who blew an easy save Sunday to all but eliminate the Angels from the playoffs and then gave up Napoli's second home run Wednesday. It was an impressive one, too, a high arcing blast into the left-field corner. Now, Walden has to think about those two outings until April.
Wrap it up. Vernon Wells locked up the worst on-base percentage in the major leagues by going 1-for-4 and not walking in his 22nd consecutive game. Wells went 2-for-21 in his final homestand and finished the season batting .218. On the bright side, it won't be hard to improve next year.
Karma? The Detroit Tigers finish next season against the Minnesota Twins. The Angels had better hope they're not in a race against Minnesota, because the Tigers might have a score to settle. After the Angels fell out of contention, Mike Scioscia went to spring-training lineups in consecutive games, Texas swept and secured homefield in the first round.