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Cabrera says coasting isn’t an option

Times Staff Writer

BALTIMORE -- Barring a visit from the ghosts of 1995, the Angels could clinch the American League West title next week with 10 or more games to play, giving Manager Mike Scioscia plenty of time to rest his regulars and align his division series rotation.

Orlando Cabrera would prefer the Angels skip the rest and go full throttle to the finish line -- even after they secure a playoff berth -- in a quest to gain home-field advantage in the first round.

“Home-field advantage is important, especially for us,” Cabrera said, alluding to the Angels’ major league-best 49-25 record at home. “It’s nice to play on our field. The people really make a difference there. And the people really make a difference in New York, that’s for sure.”

The Angels would clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs if they finish with the league’s best record, but it will be difficult to overtake Boston.

If the Red Sox win the AL East and the Yankees win the wild card, the Angels could secure home-field advantage in a first-round series against New York by finishing better than the AL Central winner, most likely Cleveland.

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The Indians are 85-61, a game behind the Angels (86-60), and if the teams finish with identical records, Cleveland would have the edge in the tiebreaker to determine who gets home field.

The first criterion, head-to-head competition, wouldn’t break the tie. The Angels went 5-5 against the Indians. The second criteria is winning percentage within the division. Cleveland is 41-21 (.661) against the AL Central with nine games left in the division; the Angels are 28-19 (.596) against the AL West with 10 games left.

“We don’t need to rest,” Cabrera said. “We need to keep playing and winning, we need to keep the winning attitude all the way to the World Series.”

Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., who suffered a second-degree sprain of his right ankle sliding into second base Tuesday night, was initially concerned that the injury might knock him out of the playoffs.

But after two nights of ice and elevation -- and little sleep -- he felt much more optimistic Thursday. Matthews was no longer on crutches, and the swelling had subsided.

“It was pretty amazing because it looked like there was a tennis ball on top of my ankle,” Matthews said. “But it’s gone down significantly. I’m encouraged now.”

Matthews could be sidelined for up to two weeks, which would give him only a handful of games to get ready for the playoffs.

The commissioner’s office took swift action against Dave Trembley, slapping the Orioles manager with a three-game suspension for his behavior Tuesday night, when Trembley pretended to toss umpire Paul Emmel from the game.

He began serving the suspension Thursday.

Vladimir Guerrero, who sat out four games and has been relegated to designated hitter for three games because of an inflamed right triceps, will begin playing catch in Chicago today in hopes of returning to right field early next week.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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