Anaheim Angels 11game AL West lead with 15 to play means postseason berth …

If there’s such a thing as a comfortable lead in September, the Angels have it. And a bag of chips.

A double-digit lead with 15 games left.

You do the math. You can count on your fingers.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before Friday’s game against the bumbling Astros that he’s not into magic numbers and distractions. He even said he didn’t know what the Angels’ lead was in the AL West.

Following Friday’s 11-3 rout of the visiting Astros, the Angels have an 11-game lead in the AL West with a magic number of five to clinch the division.

“There’s a little blood in the water as to how the standings are,” starter C.J. Wilson said. “But there’s a lot more wins we need to have. We need to win in October to achieve our goals.”

The Angels can make like Rory McIlory when he has a four-shot lead at a major. He’s so good he doesn’t have to check the scoreboard. The Angels should be dancing on the Angel Stadium field during this 10-game homestand.

The biggest decision on this homestand might be how to celebrate.

How the Angels won (09/12): Trout, Kendrick drive in four runs on way to 9th straight win

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There’s so many numbers to love if you’re the Angels. A nine-game win streak and a 17-5 record since Garrett Richards was lost for the season. Just 16 days ago, the Angels had a one-game lead over Oakland. And now, it’s 11.

Yes, an ELEVEN-game lead in mid-September.

It’s hard not to notice that gargantuan lead. Only Baltimore has a bigger lead in the majors, and that’s 11½ in the AL East.

“It’s better to have a big lead,” Wilson said. “For a lot of these guys, it’s their first chance to go to the playoffs. But our focus isn’t on the lead. It’s on how we play and once you get into the playoffs. The only teams you play are good teams.”

This will be Mike Trout’s first foray into the postseason, along with Kole Calhoun and so many others.

The Angels sure are in their happy place.

It’s a lot happier place for the Angels than last September, when the Angels were 78-84 and finished 18 games behind Oakland.

Angels Mailbag: Mike Scioscia

WATCH HERE

Scioscia has every reason to feel as secure as Linus and his blanket in mid-September.

Starting to feel a little like that 2002 bullpen and offense around here? (Otherwise known as the last year the Angels won the World Series.)

“I hope so,” Scioscia said. “We can do a retrospect at some point when this is all done. There’s a great energy on this team. It’s not a clone of any team we’ve had here. It has its own personality. …

“They’re not distracted with anything. There’s one purpose and that’s (Saturday’s) game. Hopefully, we play well enough and then go to the next game. We’ll see where it leaves us.”

The Angels are sitting pretty. Even if Scioscia isn’t looking at a hard copy of it.

“I’ll look at the standings in a week,’” Scioscia said. “Standings become a distraction. Magic numbers become a distraction. There’s a time and a place for that. It”s not right now.”

The Angels and Wilson got off to a slow start Friday and were down 3-0 against to the Astros, who have lost nearly as many games (82) as the Angels have won (92).

The Angels offense got hot, as it usually does, with a seven-run fifth inning and it was another comeback for a team that has made its living in rally fashion. The Angels have won a major-league best 45 games when trailing this year, which is two off the pace set in 2009 — the last time the Angels made the playoffs.

They’ve scored 81 runs over the last nine games. When you’re scoring runs in droves September, it’s hard not to look at those standings.

Meet Trevor Hendershot, a huge Angels fan, who inspires Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, David Freese and the rest of the Halos players and fans.

WATCH HERE

Scioscia felt different about September scoreboard-watching when he was a catcher for the Dodgers. He said then-manager Tommy Lasorda kept players focused.

“You’re a little more anxious,” Scioscia said of watching standings as a player in September. “You have to control that tendency. A lot of that stuff can be a distraction.

“(Lasorda) made us focus on the game and getting ready to play the next one if we won or lost. We didn’t focus on what other teams were doing.”

Two-game leads in September are nothing. An 11-game lead is silly good.

Oakland has hit such a rough patch that it might be out of a wild-card spot by season’s end. There’s plenty of focus on the A’s-Seattle Mariners series this weekend, and then the Angels-Mariners series, starting Monday, which is when the Angels could conceivably clinch the AL West title.

If Scioscia really isn’t looking at the standings, by the time he takes a peak next week, he could already be drenched in champagne.

Numbers don’t lie.

Erick Aybar leads surging Anaheim Angels past Texas Rangers

Erick Aybar hit a two-run home run early and eight Angels pitchers combined for a 7-3 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday night, giving Los Angeles its eighth straight win.

Los Angeles won for the 14th time in 16 games and moved 10 games ahead of second-place Oakland in the American League West with 16 games to play.

Aybar homered against Nick Martinez (3-11) in the second inning to put the Angels ahead 2-1. The shortstop entered the game batting .383 (36 for 94) since Aug. 16, best in the AL during that span.

David Freese had a two-run single in the third and Kole Calhoun’s RBI single in the seventh made it 5-1. Pinch-hitter Grant Green added a two-run single in the eighth.

Mike Morin (4-3), the fifth Los Angeles pitcher, got the win. He entered the game to retire Elvis Andrus with the bases loaded in the fourth and also worked a scoreless fifth inning.

Leonys Martin and J.P. Arencibia had solo homers for the Rangers.

Texas actually slowed down the Angels, who averaged nine runs over the first seven games of the winning streak.

The Rangers have lost five of six under interim manager Tim Bogar, and 11 of their last 12 overall to fall 37 games behind Los Angeles in the division. During that stretch, Texas has totaled only 24 runs.

Angels starter Cory Rasmus, who has made only three starts after 24 relief appearances, pitched a career-best 3 1-3 innings, allowing one run and three hits.

Martin led off the bottom of the first against Rasmus with his seventh home run, which barely cleared the fence in the right-field corner.

Arencibia’s homer in the seventh off Fernando Salas pulled the Rangers to 5-2. Rougned Odor’s RBI single in the eighth closed the scoring.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Angels: LF Josh Hamilton (shoulder injury) missed his seventh game in a row, but said he was feeling better. “He’s not really going to test it for a couple of days,” manager Mike Scioscia said.

RHP Huston Street (right hamstring) hasn’t pitched since Saturday.

Rangers: C Robinson Chirinos (stiff neck) missed his 10th straight game, but did warm up Texas’ pitcher before one inning. Fingers crossed, Bogar said, “He’s going to come back in my office and tell me he’s 100 percent, and he will be starting (Friday).”

UP NEXT

Each team opens a three-game series at home Friday night.

Los Angeles LHP C.J. Wilson (11-9, 4.64) is scheduled to pitch against Houston. He’s 1-2 with an 8.35 ERA in his first four 2014 starts vs. the Astros.

Rangers LHP Derek Holland (1-0, 0.64) would face interleague opponent Atlanta in his third start after missing the first five months following knee surgery. He has never pitched against the Braves.

Series Preview: Anaheim Angels @ Texas Rangers – It Could Happen

Series Schedule:

Tuesday, September 09 7:05: LHP Hector Santiago vs. RHP Colby Lewis

Wednesday, September 10 7:05: RHP Matt Shoemaker vs. RHP Nick Tepesch

Thursday, September 11 7:05: (TBD) (Cory Rasmus?) vs. RHP Scott Baker

The team with the best record in baseball plays the team with the worst record in baseball. So how did it come to this? How did the Angels turn a 78 win team in 2013 into the best team in baseball? Where did these wins come from for a team that has done nothing but squander the best player of the last generation and the best player of this generation the last few seasons?

One explanation is the American League seems incredibly weak this year. The A’s looked like an elite team for most of the year before turning into a pumpkin. The Orioles are running away with a subpar AL East. The Royals are winning their division, for crying out loud. Seattle is currently in a playoff spot, if that doesn’t say it all.

The Angels — again, with the best record in baseball — have someone named Matt Shoemaker as arguably their No. 2 starter. Jered Weaver, the ace, is still turning home mountains into wins despite his molehill of a fastball. C.J. Wilson is having easily his worst season as a starter. You know who has been better than Hector Santiago this season? Mostly anyone. Right now, the Angels don’t even have a fifth starter. Without Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, Cory Rasmus has started the last couple of times the Angels have needed a fifth starter in all-out bullpen nights.

Yeah, yeah, so there’s the offense and an improved bullpen. So they’re the 1999 Texas Rangers. There’s Mike Trout. There’s Pujols and Hamilton and all those other guys they had on the team the last couple of years when they weren’t the best team in baseball. I think we all know what’s going on…

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You win this time, God.

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Anaheim Angels (88-55, 1st Place in AL West)

Rangers’ Record vs. Anaheim: 3-10 (1-6 at The Ballpark)

Anaheim’s Recent Results: 4-0 road series sweep of the Minnesota Twins

Anaheim’s Road Record: 41-31

The Ballpark Park Factors (LHB/RHB): HR: 106/91 - Runs: 112/105

(not) SB Nation Angels Blog: www.disney.com

Questions to Answer:

  • Which team do you want to see beat the Angels in the ALDS?
  • Who is your Return of the McLemore Approved Player to Watch in this series? (Get Guilder in a game!)
  • Over/Under: 4.5 cumulative minutes of Scioscia Face screen time over this three game series?
  • What’s your guess for line (IP/H/K/BB/ER) by Colby Lewis tonight as he faces the Angels again after allowing 16 ER in his last 8 1/3 innings against them?
  • Yea or Nay: The Rangers finish with a better record than the Angels in 2015?

‘Hills Bandit’ Strikes Laguna Niguel and La Jolla Banks on the Same Day

The so-called Hills Bandit allegedly robbed a Laguna Niguel bank Monday after failing to do so at a La Jolla bank the same day, making it his ninth such crime in the past five months, according to FBI officials.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department released surveillance images capturing the Hills Bandit robbing a Laguna Niguel bank on Sept. 8, 2014.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department released surveillance images capturing the Hills Bandit robbing a Laguna Niguel bank on Sept. 8, 2014.

A second bank robbery in Orange County Monday was determined to be by another serial bank robber dubbed the Cal Bear Bandit, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation official Laura Eimiller.

The Hills Bandit, a middle-aged man who characteristically wears a baseball cap with a sports team logo, attempted to rob a bank in the affluent San Diego County neighborhood La Jolla around 2 p.m., officials said.

He then drove to a U.S. Bank in Orange County’s Laguna Niguel community and successfully robbed it about an hour later.

“Some robberies he’ll complete a robbery, get cash and the next day he’ll do another robbery …. No matter what amount of money he gets, it’s not enough, he keeps going. So that concerns us,” FBI Special Agent Christopher Gicking said.

Monday’s robberies came two weeks after the Hills Bandit was believed to be responsible for stealing money from a California Bank and Trust in La Jolla, according to an FBI San Diego Division news release.

A Wells Fargo Bank in Laguna Niguel was also believed to be robbed by the Hills Bandit Friday, Aug. 22.

In both cases, the man presented a note demanding $20, $50 and $100 bills, and made threats that he had a gun and would shoot people, the news release stated.

No gun was ever seen and no injuries were reported.

The string of bank robberies in San Diego and L.A. Counties beginning in May 2014 were all believed to be at the hands of the Hills Bandit, the news release stated.

He has allegedly robbed or attempted to rob a bank in Carlsbad, Lake Forest, and three in Laguna Hills, where he first got his nickname

“He’s got the area around the banks mapped out, he knows where he’s going. That’s why I believe he’s from the south Orange County area or at least familiar also with the San Diego area,” Gicking said. “Somebody here knows him. Somebody that’s watching the news probably knows him.”

The Hills Bandit was described as a white man age 40 to 50 years old, about 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet tall, weighing about 180 to 190 pounds.

In multiple robberies he carried a blue bank deposit bag, and wore glasses and a baseball hat with a Raiders, Chargers, Titleist, or Anaheim Angels logo.

Anyone with information was asked to contact the FBI’s Los Angeles Division at 310-477-6565 or FBI’s San Diego Division at 858-320-1800.

Oakland A’s vs Anaheim Angels Three-Game Series Preview

Starting this evening the Oakland A’s start a critical three-game series against the Anaheim Angels.

After dropping eight of their last 10 games the Oakland A’s find themselves out of first place in the A.L. West in the first time in a long time. That losing streak, combined with the Angels winnning eight of their last 10 games is how a four-game lead in the division had disappeared so fast.

The Angels are coming off of a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Boston, so they may be a bit weary from travel. For the Oakland A’s, hopefully yesterday’s day off will prove helpful and has given them an extra day to prepare and work out some issues with hitting and pitching as well.

Can the bats for the Oakland A’s come back alive? In their last 10 games they have managed to score more than three runs just three times. Two of those resulted in wins. Also, two of those three times came in their last series against the Mets as well.

A couple of guys that are struggling and need to pick it up are Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. Moss is hitless in his last four games (although he walked six times in that span) and only has four RBI’s in the month of August. Derek Norris has also registered just five hits in his last 10 games. Those hits were spread through just three games though and he has gone hitless in seven of his last 10 games.

Here are the pitching probables for this upcoming three-game series.

Game 1- Sonny Gray (12-7, 2.99 ERA) vs Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.46 ERA)

Sonny Gray has struggled as of late and in four starts in the month of August has posted a 0-4 record to go along with a 4.94 ERA. That includes four earned on eight hits in his last start. He was also tagged by the Royals for six runs back on August 6th.

Game 2- Jon Lester (3-1, 2.93) vs C.J. Wilson (10-8, 4.59 ERA)

The second game of the series will feature the red-hot Lester who has had 12 consecutive quality starts against Wilson who has won two consecutive games as well. Wilson has had trouble with his command throughout the season, and that was evident in his last start where he gave five free passes. Patience may be the key for the Oakland A’s against Wilson.

Game 3 – Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) vs Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70 ERA)

The series finale pits Scott Kazmir against a struggling Weaver. Weaver has not pitched into the seventh inning since July 23rd — six starts — and has issued four or more walks in three of those games. Kazmir had struggled at the end of July and into early August, but his last start against the Mets showed he is moving in the right direction. In that game he allowed just one run on four hits in six innings.

Tags: Jon Lester Oakland Athletics Scott Kazmir Sonny Gray

Albert Pujols Howie Kendrick crush Minnesota Twins pitching in Anaheim …

Albert Pujols homered and hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the ninth inning for his 2,500th hit, leading the Los Angeles Angels over Minnesota 8-5 Saturday night for their third straight win over the Twins.

Pujols hit a solo homer in the third off Phil Hughes for a 3-2 lead, scoring his 1,500th run on his 25th home run this season.

With the score 5-all in the ninth and two on, Pujols doubled to deep left off Jared Burton (2-5) and scored on Howie Kendrick’s single against Anthony Swarzak.

Joe Smith (7-2) pitched a one-hit eighth and Huston Street finished for his 37th save in 40 chances.

After one-out singles by Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmalee, Brian Dozier grounded into a game-ending 3-6-1 double play. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire challenged the call by first base umpire John Tumpane, and after a delay of about 1 minute, 20 seconds, the call was upheld.

Eduardo Escobar and Chris Parmelee homered for Minnesota, which led 5-3 after seven innings. The Angeles tied the score in the eighth against Casey Fien when Pujols singled, Kendrick tripled and Erick Aybar hit a sacrifice fly.

Hughes allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings, walked none and struck out eight. With 165 strikeouts, he tied his career best with the New York Yankees in 2012.

TRAINER’S ROOM:

Angels: LF Josh Hamilton missed his second straight game with a sore shoulder. Hamilton had been expected to return to the lineup, but manager Mike Scioscia said before the game that he was day to day. Scioscia said Hamilton was “feeling better” and LHP Joe Thatcher (ankle) was slated to pitch Saturday for Double-A Arkansas.

Twins: CF Danny Santana left the game with a lower-back injury sustained while trying to throw out David Freese at home in the second. The team said he’s day to day. All-Star closer Glen Perkins also is day to day with neck soreness that started bothering him Thursday night. An MRI Saturday revealed no structural damage or pinched nerves. … OF Jordan Schafer was out of the lineup a night after bruising ribs during a crash into the outfield wall. Assistant GM Rob Antony said Schafer was available to pinch run, if needed.

UP NEXT:

Los Angeles starts LHP C.J. Wilson (10-9), who is 4-0 against the Twins since 2011. LHP Logan Darnell (0-1) likely will start for Minnesota.

Chris Iannetta sac fly in 9th lifts Anaheim Angels over Minnesota Twins

Pinch-hitter Chris Iannetta’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning lifted the Los Angeles Angels to a 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

David Freese broke out of an 0-for-21 slump with two doubles and an RBI, and Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar each had two hits and an RBI to help the Angels bounce back from a two-game sweep in Houston. Huston Street earned his 36th save in 38 chances to give the Angels a five-game lead in the AL West over Oakland.

Eduardo Nunez hit a three-run homer and Kyle Gibson shrugged off a poor fourth inning to go seven for the Twins. But All-Star closer Glen Perkins (3-2) gave up a leadoff double to Freese to start the ninth and couldn’t strand him.

Pinch-hitter John McDonald bunted pinch-runner Tony Campana over to third, and Iannetta hit a fly ball deep enough to left to get Campana home.

The Angels put four on the board in the fourth inning, aided by a fielding mishap from the Twins on a double by Kendrick. Left fielder Jordan Schafer fielded the ball off the wall and threw it to second base, but no one was there to catch it. Infielders Nunez, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer all anticipated Schafer would go home with the throw, and it allowed a second run to score on the play as Kendrick moved up to third base.

Kendrick scored on a single by Aybar, and Freese added a double to make it 4-0.

Hector Santiago was in trouble for most of his outing, leaving the bases loaded in the second and two on in the third before Dozier drove in Danny Santana to get the Twins on the board in the fifth. Nunez’s drive landed in the left-center bullpen in the sixth to tie the game.

Angels’ Shoemaker wins AL’s top pitcher, rookie honors for month of August

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Santiago gave up four runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Joe Smith (6-2) pitched one inning for the win, and Street nailed down his 12th save since arriving from San Diego in a trade.

Gibson gave up four runs and seven hits.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Angels: LHP Joe Thatcher threw to hitters briefly in the Target Field batting cages as he continues to work his way back from a sprained left ankle.

Twins: LHP Tommy Milone will skip his next scheduled start because of what the team is calling a tired arm. Milone has had a difficult time since joining the Twins’ rotation, going 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA in five starts. Milone told the team he’s had the same issue in the past and usually is able to turn things around after skipping one start. LHP Logan Darnell will likely get the nod in Milone’s place.

UP NEXT

The Angels send RHP Matt Shoemaker (14-4, 3.14 ERA) to the mound Friday night against struggling Twins RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-10, 5.96). Shoemaker has thrown 23 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings, the second longest streak by an Angels rookie behind Bob Lee’s 27 straight in 1964. Shoemaker was chosen AL pitcher and rookie of the month for August.

Nolasco was tagged for eight runs in five innings against Baltimore in his most recent start and hasn’t won since July 1.

Freese seeing time as DH with Beckham at 3B

No relief down stretch for dependable bullpen

ANAHEIM — The Angels’ bullpen has been working hard in the second half, and there’s no let-up in sight.

The month of September may be even more taxing.

“It’s all hands on deck,” veteran reliever Jason Grilli said. “You can pace yourself from April to August. Once September hits, redline it, man. Put the gas pedal to the floor, go as hard as you can and don’t look back.”

That’s the mentality the Angels’ bullpen has to take on, because Garrett Richards won’t be back this season, no starting pitcher is expected to be added to fill his rotation spot and manager Mike Scioscia will have to patch together nine innings every time a fifth starter is needed.

Since the All-Star break, Angels relievers easily lead the Majors in innings with 152 1/3 heading into Sunday’s series finale (8 1/3 innings ahead of the Cubs). The Angels will get some much-needed depth starting Tuesday — their first game after rosters expand for September — with relievers like Michael Kohn, Vinnie Pestano and Cam Bedrosian expected to be added, but that won’t change who Scioscia’s go-to guys are on the back end.

Kevin Jepsen, who has primarily been pitching the seventh inning, is two appearances shy of his career high (68, in 2010). Setup man Joe Smith is 5 1/3 innings away from his career high (70 2/3 innings, in 2011). And much-relied-upon rookie Mike Morin will be pitching into September for the first time, already surpassing his career high in appearances.

“We look at ourselves as a unit, as a team within a team and we’re all just trying to pitch our inning,” said closer Huston Street, who appeared in a fourth straight game for the first time since 2010 on Saturday. “As you can see, in this type of baseball, every pitch, every inning matters.”

But that workload, coupled with the fact that the Angels will finish the season playing 43 games in 45 days and that it’ll take an assortment of relievers to make it past each of Richards’ starts, is a troubling sign for the bullpen.

In Grilli’s mind, honesty is key.

“We just all have to be smart,” he said. “We all know how we feel; we have to communicate. That’s a big part of it.

“It’s self-evaluation, more than us being overused. There’s self-accountability. There’s also the hope that they understand what we’re being asked to do, and if they’re calling upon us, they know that we may need a day. They’ll tell us.”