Sunday, September 30, 2012
The Los Angeles Angels enter their final series of the regular season clinging to very slim postseason hopes.
Even a three-game sweep may not be enough.
While trying for another win against Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, the Angels will be spending plenty of time scoreboard watching Monday night at Safeco Field.
Los Angeles (88-71) and Tampa Bay are both three games behind Oakland for the AL's second wild-card spot.
At the same time the Angels are in Seattle (73-86), the A's are hosting AL West-leading Texas while the Rays welcome Baltimore, which has clinched a playoff spot but is tied with New York atop the East.
Los Angeles will be officially eliminated from postseason contention if the A's win just once in their three-game series with the Rangers.
Still, the Angels aren't conceding the race.
"We go to Seattle and fight like hell," said Mark Trumbo, who is 0 for 10 in his last three games against the Mariners.
The Angels' playoff chances took a severe hit Sunday, when they wasted a four-run, first-inning lead and fell 8-7 at Texas in the second game of a doubleheader. They scored twice in the ninth to rally for a 5-4 victory in the opener.
"We needed to get that second game obviously to keep pace and put ourselves in a little better position," manager Mike Scioscia said. "These guys played their hearts out. I don't know that you can ask much more than that."
It would seem Los Angeles is in favorable position to win for the eighth time in 10 games despite facing Hernandez (13-8, 2.86 ERA). The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.13 ERA in four starts against the Angels this season.
Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, certainly can't be blamed for Wednesday's defeat in Anaheim. He yielded two runs with nine strikeouts in six innings before reliever Stephen Pryor gave up a walkoff single to Torii Hunter in a 4-3 loss.
"He was as strong as he's been all year (in his last start)," manager Eric Wedge told the team's official website. "I loved his fastball, and liked the end on his pitches. We want him to finish strong and feel good when he's done."
Hernandez, though, is 0-3 with a 5.70 ERA in his last five games.
The Angels, who took two of three from the Mariners last week, will again counter the three-time All-Star with C.J. Wilson (12-10, 3.86). The left-hander was pulled with one out in the sixth Wednesday after allowing three runs and five hits with three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
He's 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his last three starts.
Wilson, though, has won three of his last four starts at Safeco, compiling a 1.27 ERA while striking out 32 in 28 1-3 innings.
Mike Trout hasn't been very productive at Seattle, hitting .226 in seven games this year, but he's 5 for 13 with one homer off Hernandez.
The 21-year-old center fielder was 4 for 12 with a triple and two solo homers in the three-game series at Texas over the weekend.
He's the youngest player with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season, and needs two more steals to join Eric Davis (1987) and Barry Bonds (1990) as the only players to reach 30 and 50, respectively.
That's a big reason why Trout is the likely choice to win AL Rookie of the Year, and he can significantly build his case for the league's MVP award in this series.