Surging Angels have eyes on postseason prize
ANAHEIM -- David Murphy, Monday night's walk-off star for the Angels in a 5-4 win over the Athletics, has been down this late-September highway a few times with his old ballclub, the Rangers.
"When you get to this time of year," Murphy said, "anything can happen."
And it usually does, right?
"Exactly," Murphy said, grinning. "Baseball's a crazy game. We all know it's going to be fun this last week. I think tonight was a perfect indication of what's to come."
The Angels own a six-game winning streak in the afterglow of Murphy's line-drive single with the bases full in the bottom of the ninth. Providing the latest happy ending, it pushed their record in one-run games to 33-16.
The Angels' big-picture goal is unchanged.
"Get to the playoffs, any way we can," Mike Trout said. "Win every game. We've got six left, and we need to win 'em all.
"The division? That's the one we've been chasing. When you win six straight, you'd hope to be in first. But Texas and Houston are good teams. The only thing we can do is go out and win every game."
The regular season's final four games for the Angels will be in Texas, against a Rangers outfit that appears to be wobbling somewhat. Their AL West lead after three consecutive losses is down to 1 1/2 games over the Astros and two games over the Angels.
"We play Texas four times, and we're two back," Trout said. "Every game is huge. We're going to play 'em one game at a time -- try to get a win and see what happens."
Control what's directly in front of you. That's the mantra here. Angels manager Mike Scioscia acts as if the standings are radioactive.
"We've looked at the schedule," Scioscia said. "We've definitely looked at matchups. Our rotation is a little thin.
"We know where we are. We need to win tomorrow. That's what we need to do."
With nothing to lose and a clear desire to make their rivals to the south suffer, the A's threw a few haymakers in the series opener, including Marcus Semien's homer in the fourth off Hector Santiago.
Albert Pujols launched a tying homer, his 38th, in the sixth after the A's scored twice in the top half.
The Angels' defense -- highlighted by Trout's legs and arm and Kole Calhoun's cannon in right -- made big plays. Critically, the bullpen produced outs under pressure with shutdown artists Joe Smith and Huston Street down with injuries.
Young Trevor Gott, Mike Morin and Cam Bedrosian have delivered high-octane stuff.
Street's left groin injury will have him out through the rest of the regular season, at least. To Trout, this misfortune calls to mind what the Angels endured last season on Aug. 20 when his buddy, Garrett Richards, injured his left knee in Boston and required major surgery.
"When your closer goes down, it's tough," Trout said. "We had that happen last year when G-Rich went down. It gave us a little chip on our shoulder."
The Angels were 74-50 and leading the division by a half-game when their dominant young starter collapsed in the second inning at Fenway Park. They went 24-14 the rest of the way, winning the West by 10 games with the best record in the Majors.
Murphy was a weapon for Rangers teams that reached back-to-back World Series in 2010 and '11, coming within one strike of a championship in the 2011 Fall Classic in St. Louis.
The sweet-swinging Texan is clearly enthused with the prospect of facing his old buddies Thursday through Sunday with so much potentially on the line.
"I've really enjoyed it here," said Murphy, a July 28 acquisition from the Indians. "It's a great group of guys, a lot of character in here. The way we've played the last week, grinding it out through the injuries to the bullpen -- there's a never-say-die attitude.
"I knew we were a talented team when I got here. In August, things weren't going our way. Now we're playing the way we're capable of playing. People say it's