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TTLE -- From the start, the Angels have been in an uphill climb to try and meet the gaudy expectations they carried into 2012. That climb finally ceased at Safeco Field on Monday night, but not in the way the Angels would've hoped -- or, frankly, the way many would've predicted six months ago.
In a year with more opportunity than ever, the Angels, and their $155 million payroll, won't make the playoffs.
The Athletics' 4-3 victory over the Rangers at the Coliseum guaranteed that they'd get at least the second American League Wild Card spot and mathematically ensured that the Angels would fall short of the postseason for a third straight year. It happened in Game No. 160 -- the same game that knocked the Angels out last year.
But this year was supposed to be different.
"We set ourselves back early in the year and never quite got to a position we wanted to be, and we paid a price for it," a solemn Mike Scioscia said after a rather meaningless 8-4 win over the Mariners. "But these guys, they respected the game. They played hard all year. It was a great bunch of guys in there, and we feel for them, too, because they left everything out on the field and we just couldn't get there."
The Angels, incidentally enough, have been playing some of their best baseball lately, going an AL-best 27-11 since Aug. 21.
But they dug themselves too many holes.
First, there was that 6-14 start, due in large part to an inept offense that was still without Mike Trout and was hardly with Albert Pujols, who was batting below .200 by the time he hit his first home run on May 6 -- the Angels' 29th game of the season. Then, after the Angels climbed all the way back, there was a 14-22 start to the second half, fueled mostly by an underperforming starting rotation that posted a 5.50 ERA.
And through it all, there was a thin bullpen that blew an AL-leading 22 saves, several of them in crucial times.
"We thought we had a pretty good ballclub to try to make the postseason and we didn't," said Pujols, who was added alongside C.J. Wilson this offseason to put expectations at a premium. "We're going to have hopefully the same core coming back next year, and hopefully we can have a better year."
The Angels haven't been short on standout individual performances. Trout is having a historic season and could be the youngest Most Valuable Player in baseball history. Jered Weaver may win his first Cy Young. Pujols' numbers are practically on par with his career averages despite the rough start. Kendrys Morales has produced like few would've expected. Ernesto Frieri was practically unhittable in the first half. Torii Hunter and Erick Aybar have been among the best second-half hitters in baseball. Mark Trumbo has hit 32 homers. Howie Kendrick has produced quietly. Zack Greinke has pitched as advertised lately. And the Angels will reach 90 victories for the first time in three years by winning one of their next two.
Hardly any of that matters now, though.
"It's kind of funny to look at a team that has so many wins on the season and say it's a failed situation, but we obviously have to put the blame on ourselves," Wilson said. "And when you're counting on other teams to help you out down the stretch, it's not a good position."