The Los Angeles Angels will make their first post-season appearance since 2009 having clinched the AL West last night.
They clinched a tie with a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on a combined one-hit shutout by C.J. Wilson, Joe Smith and Huston Street. For a time, it appeared their celebrations would have to wait until Thursday. Jeff Samardzija struck out 10 batters over 8 innings and the A’s had a 1-0 lead over the lowly Texas Rangers going into the 9th. But the A’s bullpen imploded. Jimmy Doolittle, Jesse Chavez and Fernando Abad gave up six runs in the ninth and the Angels completed their ascent of the AL West.
After disappointing campaigns in 2012 and 2013 following the high profile signings of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton, the Angels finally put it together this year. They were good all season, but it looked like the A’s would win their third straight AL West title especially after the acquisitions of Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. At the All-Star Break, the A’s and Angels had the two best records in MLB with a 59-36 and 57-37 mark, respectively. The Angels have been able to sustain that pace and the A’s have not. Since the Mid-Summer Classic, the Angels have gone 38-20 while the A’s have gone 24-32. Since August 12th, the Angels have gone 27-8 while the A’s have gone 11-22. During that stretch, the Angels had a triumphant four game sweep of the A’s.
The A’s have not been the same since they shipped Yoenis Cespedes to Boston. Yet the Angels lost Garrett Richards, their best starting pitcher, who injured his knee covering first base against the Red Sox which would require season ending surgery. Of course when you have a rotation that includes Wilson, Jered Weaver and Matt Shoemaker that soften the blows. Acquiring Huston Street from the Padres has been a blessing as has the mid-season acquisition of Jason Grilli from the Pirates in a bullpen that already consisted of Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Salas. Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are operating on all eight cylinders. Trout will very likely win the AL MVP. The Angels will likely finish the season with 100 wins.
Meanwhile, the A’s share the lead in the AL Wild Card with the Kansas City Royals and the Mariners are only two games back.
As with the Orioles and Nationals, I wonder if the Angels will lose their momentum having clinched so early. Nevertheless, I think the Angels have to be the odds on favorite to win their first World Series since 2002.