SEPT. 24, 2002
GAME 157 - ANGELS AT RANGERS
ARLINGTON, Texas – The champagne is flat, and so are the Angels.
Playing their third consecutive game with a chance to clinch their first playoff appearance in 16 years, the Angels lost again, this time a lackluster 2-1 setback to the Texas Rangers before 21,869 at The Ballpark in Arlington. It's the first time the Angels have lost three in row since Aug. 7-9.
After the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia held a brief meeting with the players in an effort to get them to play like they did early in September.
``We're so close it's like a carrot dangling in front of you,'' Scioscia said. ``We're so close guys think they can bull their way through the barrier of the playoffs, when it's more a finesse situation. Play the same way you played in spring training.
``Some guys need to back off a little, and some guys are more worried about pressing, they're laying back and getting out of their game.''
First baseman Scott Spiezio, who had two of the Angels' seven hits, said the meeting was positive.
``He just said play the game the way you're capable of playing, do the things you did to get yourselves here,'' he said. ``Be yourselves, basically. I know as a manager I'd probably want to say something too. We're trying.''
Angels starter Kevin Appier (14-12) pitched well enough to win, allowing two runs and seven hits in six innings. But Rangers starter Joaquin Benoit (4-4) was better, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings.
The only Angel run came home on Garret Anderson's two-out homer in the top of the sixth. That tied the game at 1, but Ivan Rodriguez homered to lead off the bottom of the sixth to put the Rangers up for good.
The Angels got more bad news when they learned Seattle rallied to beat Oakland, staying alive in the wild-card race, five games behind the Angels and tied with Boston.
However, the Angels' hopes for the division title are all but gone, now trailing the A's by four games. One more A's win or Angels loss and the A's clinch the division.
With five games left, one more loss by both Boston and Seattle and the Angels are in.
The Angels, though, want to win it themselves and avoid getting help from someone else. Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said the only way that can happen is for the Angels to enjoy their situation, and right now, that's not the case.
``This, for me, was the most exciting thing that ever happened,'' Hatcher said of his pennant race and playoff experience. ``What we're lacking now is a feeling of excitement to win the World Series. I don't see the motivation right now. We don't deserve to celebrate unless we're winning.''
Though the Angels did very little hitting Tuesday, they did have their chances. But when they got those chances they did nothing with them, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
Adam Kennedy was the primary culprit, unable to drive in runs when the Angels appeared to have something going. In the fifth, Troy Glaus walked and went to second on a single by Scott Spiezio. Bengie Molina sacrificed the runners to second and third, but Kennedy struck out swinging at a pitch in the dirt.
David Eckstein lined out to short to end the inning.
Kennedy got a chance to redeem himself in the seventh after Molina doubled and pinch runner Chone Figgins took third on a wild pitch. But again, Kennedy struck out swinging at a pitch in the dirt. Eckstein struck out for the third out.
Kennedy, who figures to be on the bench for tonight's game, is hitless in his past 18 at-bats and is 3 for 25 overall on the road trip.
``For me personally, I just didn't do good today,'' Kennedy said. ``I don't think I was trying to do too much, but it may have been. I was just not good today.''
The Angels last real opportunity to score came in the eighth inning thanks to a gift from the Rangers. Rangers center fielder Ruben Rivera dropped a flyball hit by Tim Salmon, who wound up on second base. Anderson followed with a lineout to right, and pinch runner Alfredo Amezaga tagged and went to third.
Pinch hitter Shawn Wooten walked, but Glaus flied out to right for the final out of the inning.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- With Tuesday's loss to the Rangers, the Angels have lost six of eight on the current road trip, obviously not the way they would like to head into the playoffs.
``It's important to keep a high level of play, because it's easier to maintain it than rebuild it,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. ``Even though we're (2-6) on the trip we've played some good baseball. The trick is we've got to finish it off with wins. I'm confident our level of play is going to bring wins and keep us on the road we've been on.''
Scioscia said Monday's off day was welcomed considering the recent schedule. It was just their second day off since Aug. 19.
``The schedule in September, particularly playing back in our division, is one of the toughest I've even been associated with,'' Scioscia said. ``Not only the amount of games but the quality of teams we're playing are playing at a very high level. We've had to meet the challenge of playing at a very high level and I think we have.''
The Angels are 15-7 in September.
Shortstop David Eckstein was amused by a report on ESPN's ``Baseball Tonight'' that said the Oakland A's had ``exposed'' his weakness. Eckstein went 2 for 16 in the series last week against the A's, and the report said it was a result of the first-pitch, off-speed pitches that pitchers threw him.
``Definitely, the A's throw a lot of off-speed pitches,'' Eckstein said. ``But 80-to 90-percent of the time I don't swing until I get a strike on me. (In the Oakland series) I just wasn't swinging the bat that well.''
In the second inning of Tuesday's game, Kevin Mench went to third on a single to center by Hank Blalock, drawing a throw from Angels center fielder Darin Erstad. The throw hit Mench as he slid into third and bounced away from third baseman Troy Glaus, allowing Blalock to reach second.
Erstad was charged with an error, his first of the season in 458 chances this season. It was his first error since last season, ending a streak of 244 consecutive errorless games.
Pitcher Aaron Sele (partially torn muscle in right shoulder) threw a simulated game Tuesday, and could be activated by this weekend. Sele, though, would be used strictly out of the bullpen because he hasn't built up enough arm strength or stamina to start.
``We'll see where he is and see if there's time to get him in a game,'' Scioscia said.