As we head into the second half of September, the playoff picture is pretty clear. For the most part, we know which teams will miss the playoffs and which will indeed have the opportunity to play baseball in October. The Red Sox and Yankees are entwined in a brutal race for the AL East, but the loser of that race will wind up with the consolation prize of taking the wild card.
But out west, the Rangers and Angels are still very much embroiled in a bitter fight to the end. The Halos stand only one game behind the defending American League champions with less than a month to go in the regular season. This is the time of the season when a club simply can’t afford to make mistakes.
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For the most part, the Angels have been able to avoid errors and the like, but the team is still very prone to the occasional disastrous hiccup. Two very vivid and recent examples come to mind.
The first such meltdown occurred on September 2, when the Angels faced the Twins in Anaheim. The defense was less of a liability that day, although Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells both made some awful plays in the outfield. The blame, instead, rested on the pitching, which walked in four runs in a collective breakdown. The Angels’ five runs may have won even a decent game by the pitching staff, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
The second such outing came against the Mariners in Seattle. This time, the defense was to blame, as four errors proved to be the difference in a 2-1 loss. Ervin Santana’s stellar start went to waste thanks to a bungling defense.
These are the kinds of games the Angels cannot afford to have at this stage in the season. I certainly believe in getting all the mistakes “out of their system” while they still can, but the Angels’ chances of winning the West rest heavily on mistake-free baseball.
If this series against the Yankees is any indication, Los Angeles should know by now they can beat anybody if they simply play to their strengths – precision baserunning, stellar pitching and staunch defense. At this stage, they can only beat themselves.
Since then, though, the Angels have buckled down and played to the best of their ability, and they play today with an opportunity to tie Texas for first place. If they’ve waited all season to play their best baseball, now’s the time to do it.