Angels’ playoff hopes finally end with 9-2 loss to Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Mike Trout and Albert Pujols gave the Los Angeles Angels an early lead in a playoff bid that improbably remained alive on the final day of the regular season.
The 2014 AL West champs couldn’t finish off their comeback.
Texas ace Cole Hamels pitched a three-hitter, Adrian Beltre hit a go-ahead homer and the Rangers clinched the division title by beating the Angels 9-2 Sunday, eliminating Los Angeles from postseason contention.
The loss came a day after the Angels made Texas the first team in the history of the majors to lose a potential league or division clincher in the final week of the season after taking a lead of at least four runs into the ninth inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Angels scored five in the final inning of an 11-10 win Saturday, one they needed when Houston won later in the day.
“We could have been out of it in August,” said Trout, the reigning AL MVP and a candidate to win it again. “It didn’t matter how many runs an opposing team was up. Yesterday was an example. We could easily have been out of it today, before this game, because Houston won last night. But we came back. We gave ourselves a chance. And that’s all we can ask for.”
After Pujols hit his 40th homer in the first following Trout’s double to give the Angels a 2-0 lead, Hamels allowed only one more hit, Shane Victorino’s one-out double in the second.
The Angels were a season-high 7 1/2 games out of first place on Aug. 31, which was about two months after general manager Jerry Dipoto walked away from the club while manager Mike Scioscia flatly denied the split had anything to do with a power struggle.
They dealt with injuries to the rotation and bullpen and had one of the worst offenses in the AL. And yet they still had a shot on the final day, and had to deal with the added disappointment of knowing a Houston loss at Arizona gave them a chance for a one-game playoff for the second wild card. The Astros got it instead.
“This game’s funny. I don’t know if I’ve been prouder of a group of guys,” Scioscia said. “I was inspired by these guys. As bleak as it looked at some points in the last month, the bleaker it looked, the brighter they came out and shined. It was fun to watch.”
First-year Texas manager Jeff Banister stood in a corner of his clubhouse watching the Rangers celebrate, with champagne spraying all over the place.
A year after their 95 losses were the most in the American League, two months after they were still eight games out of first place and three days after ensuring themselves a postseason spot, the Rangers finally clinched their sixth AL West title.
“Incredible moment, emotional, one I’ll never forget,” Banister said. “They never quit.”
The Rangers clinched no worse than a wild card with their 5-3 win in the opener of the four-game series Thursday night before the Angels won the next two games with ninth-inning rallies.
Texas left no doubt in the finale with a six-run seventh inning that lasted 37 minutes and included five Los Angeles pitchers. Beltre, who has driven in 33 runs his last 23 games, had an RBI single and Andrus added a two-run double.
Texas went ahead to stay in the fifth on Beltre’s 18th homer, which landed just beyond the wall in right field for a 3-2 lead against Garrett Richards (15-12), who started on three days’ rest for the first time in his career.
“Can’t say I’m happy,” Trout said. “I’m obviously not happy, but proud I am about this group.”
Rangers: A day off Monday before working out at home Tuesday and then traveling to Toronto for Game 1 of the ALDS.
Trout didn’t commit an error in 435 total chances this season. Only two outfielders in Angels history have played 120 or more errorless games — Torii Hunter in 2008 after Brian Downing in 1982 and 1984. Trout has also robbed eight homers since 2012, two more than any other player.