It’s deep-breath time for teams in tight battles for a playoff berth. Time to relax, hone the focus, to win any way they can.
The Angels are getting down to it now, the regular season offering 14 final games to determine whether they get to participate come the postseason.
They found a way to win Saturday night, and if their 2-0 victory over the Rangers wasn’t exactly of classical design, it was plenty effective enough.
The Angels used two solo home runs from Justin Upton to account for the night’s entire offense. They rode the scoreless pitching of starter Parker Bridwell and more effective relief from Keynan Middleton, Cam Bedrosian and Yusmeiro Pettit to close it down.
“There are many different ways to win a game,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “Today we did it really on the mound.”
The victory allowed the Angels to pull back within a game of the Minnesota Twins for the final American League wild-card spot. And though their remaining schedule is daunting — their last four series are against the Indians, Astros, White Sox and Mariners — they are well positioned for the final two weeks of the season.
“We need to bring a sense of urgency to every game that we need, without getting tight,” Scioscia said. “We need to go out there and execute.”
Upton’s initial homer came in the first inning, and stood as the game’s only score until he hit another one off Cole Hames (10-4) in the eighth.
The home runs gave him 31 on the season and a career-high 103 RBI.
“Justin is a great player,” Bridwell said. “He has a hot bat and we have to keep that going right now.”
The late-season acquisition has looked very much like the guy who had played so well for the Tigers.
“I think he just changed colors and he’s picked up where he left off there,” Scioscia said.
Outside of Upton, Hamels pretty much had his way with the Angels. He allowed only two other hits.
But the Angels, who have patchworked their rotation together all season, had an effective answer in Bridwell.
The right-hander they simply purchased from the Orioles in the middle of April cruised through the early going.
He had a perfect game underway when Joey Gallo doubled with one out in the fifth. Texas had its best scoring chance when Robinson Chirinos followed with a walk, but Bridwell popped up Rougned Odor and struck out Willie Calhoun, and that was that.
Bridwell (8-2) lasted six-plus innings, not allowing a run or walk, and striking out seven. The Angels are now 16-2 in games Bridwell has pitched.
“I think it’s just a lot of luck,” Bridwell said. “I just like to go out there and give my team a chance to win.
The Texas native grew up a Rangers fan. It was the first time he faced them.
“We need that well-pitched game,” Scioscia said. “We haven’t had that often the last 20 games or so.”
Petit has been the unexpected find in the Angels bullpen this season. He threw two perfect innings Friday to earn that win, and a perfect ninth Saturday to earn his fourth save.
While the Angels are making a little move at the right time, the Rangers are fading. Saturday marked their fifth consecutive loss.
Brandon Phillips missed the game because of lower back stiffness that forced him out of Friday’s game in the seventh inning. Scioscia was hopeful Phillips could return Sunday. … Left-hander Andrew Heaney, who has not pitched since suffering a shoulder impingement on Sept. 9, played catch prior to Saturday’s game. Scioscia said they hoped to get a firmer grasp of his status over the next three days. … Yunel Escobar, out since Aug. 7 because of an oblique injury, took groundballs and is scheduled to start swinging on Tuesday.