Rangers win West; Angels' WC hopes dashed
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, on the strength of a brilliant pitching performance by Cole Hamels, clinched the American League West and ended the Angels' postseason hopes with a 9-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park.
The Rangers advanced to the AL Division Series to face the Toronto Blue Jays. The best-of-five ALDS will begin on Thursday, and the Rangers will travel to Toronto for Games 1 (2:30 p.m. CT on FS1) and 2. Texas' victory meant that the Astros clinched an AL Wild Card berth regardless of their result Sunday vs. the D-backs in Phoenix, though Houston did lose, 5-3.
"Pure joy," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Pure joy and elation. I know where we have been and where these guys have been. We talked about being on a mission in Spring Training, and they never wavered from Day 1. I know these guys, and they are not done yet."
Hamels allowed a two-run home run to Albert Pujols in the first inning and then held the Angels to just one hit the rest of the way. Adrian Beltre put the Rangers ahead with a two-run home run off Angels starter Garrett Richards in the fifth. The Rangers then broke it open with a six-run seventh inning against the Angels' bullpen.
"This means a lot," Beltre said. "Just a great feeling."
The Angels persevered through a 19-loss August and a couple of debilitating September defeats -- like the five ninth-inning runs they gave up to the Astros on Sept. 13, or the seven unearned runs they surrendered to the A's on Wednesday -- to make it interesting until the very end. On Saturday, they rallied for five runs in the ninth inning to capture a thrilling, 11-10 win that kept their playoff hopes alive.
"Right now, it hasn't sunk in yet that the season's over," Angels center fielder Mike Trout said. "You're with this group of guys for a long time, you bond together, you're a big family. Now it's time for the offseason."
The Angels entered the final day needing a win and an Astros loss to force an AL Wild Card tiebreaker from Minute Maid Park on Monday.
"We had one job today, and it was to win," Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella said. "It didn't happen, but it's not going to put a damper on our season. I'm very proud of everyone in this locker room. A month ago, everyone counted us out of any kind of playoff hopes, but we battled back and this team showed a lot of heart to get to this point. We just fell a game short."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
DeShields bunt opens door: With the Rangers leading, 3-2, Chris Gimenez led off the seventh with a walk against Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian. Delino DeShields followed with a bunt and third baseman David Freese collided with Bedrosian fielding the ball. Neither did get the ball, DeShields was safe and it set the stage for a six-run seventh inning.
Cole world: The Angels got to Hamels early, with Pujols' 40th home run of the year. But their offense didn't do much else the rest of the afternoon. Over the next eight innings, the Angels got only two runners in scoring position, one of which only got there on a throwing error by Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor. Hamels finished giving up just two runs on three hits and two walks in nine innings, striking out eight.
"That's why he's an ace," Trout said. "He's pitched in big games before, knows how to handle himself. We scratched some runs against him early and just fell short."
Beltre nails slider: Richards was getting on a roll in the middle innings with a sharp breaking ball. But, with one on and one out in the fifth, Beltre caught up with a slider and hit it over the right-field fence for a two-run home run, and Texas did not trail again.
"Just another big-time player coming up in a big-time situation," Banister said. "That was exactly what we needed."
Bullpen woes: With Richards throwing 99 pitches on three days' rest, and an already shorthanded bullpen accounting for 27 1/3 innings over the last eight games, Angels manager Mike Scioscia was forced to go with Bedrosian, Cesar Ramos and Mike Morin -- three guys who have pitched mostly in low-leverage situations all year -- while trailing by just one in the seventh. The result was six runs on four hits and three walks.
"We tried to get some guys to match up, some guys who were a little fresher, and guys who had really been throwing the ball well for us," Scioscia said. "We just couldn't get through the seventh inning. We had some guys that we could use maybe for a shorter term, but we just couldn't get the ball over the plate in the seventh, and didn't make a couple plays in the field. It ended up being a big inning for them." More >
"They left their hearts on the field, and it was an inspiring group. I was inspired by these guys. The bleaker it looked, the brighter they shined. It was fun to watch." -- Scioscia, on his 2015 Angels
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pujols' 40th home run -- his highest total since 2010 -- marked the first time the Angels have had two players hit that many in the same year. Troy Glaus was the only player in franchise history to reach 40, hitting 47 in 2000 and 41 in '01. Trout has 41 home runs, a career high.
Trout grounded out in his final at-bat of the season and finished the season with a batting average of .2991304 (172-for-575). Trout also posted a .402 on-base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage, the highest of his career. Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, perhaps the frontrunner for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, finished with a line of .297/.371/.568.
Angels: Nick Tropeano was all set to start a potential AL Wild Card tiebreaker in Houston on Monday, and Andrew Heaney would've taken the ball for the AL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser on Tuesday. But now the Angels' season is over. They finished it 85-77, not mathematically eliminated until the final day.
Rangers: The Rangers advance to the ALDS and will play the Blue Jays on Thursday in Game 1 in Toronto. The Rangers have not announced their starting rotation, but it's unlikely to be Hamels on three days' rest.