With any baseball team, winning a division is a matter of highs and lows, joy and sadness, pain and promise. For the Angels, these 10 moments helped get them to where they are now, American League West champions.
5 shining moments
1. Torii Hunter’s leaping catch to win the game.
The Angels center fielder made a spectacular running catch above the left-center field wall to rob Miguel Olivo of a potential score-tying, ninth-inning home run. The play preserved the Angels’ 4-3 victory over Kansas City on May 10. How high did he jump? “I felt like I could have dunked a basketball,” Hunter said. “With two hands . . . over Shaq.”
2. Jered Weaver throws the first shutout of his career.
It came on June 14 -- a five-hit, five-strikeout, 119-pitch gem in a 6-0 victory over San Diego. The win began a 12-3 run against interleague opponents in which the Angels went from 4 1/2 games behind Texas on June 12 to 1 1/2 games ahead on June 28.
3. A sweep of the Yankees.
The Angels on July 10-12 took a three-game series from New York, outscoring them 29-18 without the injured Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero. The Angels overcame a 5-1 deficit to win the first game, used a seven-run fifth inning to win the second and a four-run fourth to win the third.
4. Batting .300 times nine.
All nine Angels starters -- Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Rivera, Guerrero, Kendry Morales, Hunter, Maicer Izturis, Mike Napoli and Erick Aybar -- finished a 5-4 win in Cleveland on Aug. 18 with batting averages of .300 or better. The last team to end a game at least 100 games into the season with every player in the starting lineup hitting .300 or better? The 1934 Detroit Tigers.
5. Scott Kazmir becomes an Angel and Morales soars.
The Angels on Aug. 28 acquired the left-hander from Tampa Bay to bolster a rotation that had struggled. That night, Morales had a career-high five hits, including two home runs and two doubles, and six runs batted in. Morales, in his first full big league season, goes on to hit .303 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs.
5 low moments
1. A death in the family.
On April 9, hours after he throws the finest game of his young career, right-hander Nick Adenhart, 22, was killed along with two friends when their car was broadsided by an alleged drunk driver. That night’s game is postponed, as the Angels grieve.
2. Trouble on the field.
The Angels, still reeling from Adenhart’s death, went through the motions in a 3-1 loss in Minnesota on April 19. “We’re still down. You can feel it in the clubhouse,” Hunter said.
3. Texas Rangers surge.
The Angels were outplayed by Texas in a three-game series May 15-17, falling 4 1/2 games behind the confident Rangers in the AL West. After making a fine defensive play to end the last game, Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler was seen mouthing the words, “Get the [heck] off our field!”
4. Scioscia calls a meeting.
After a sloppy 11-1 loss at Tampa Bay on June 11, Manager Mike Scioscia aired out the club in a team meeting. “We need to get better,” he said. “We need to play with consistency. And if the guys in that clubhouse aren’t going to do it, then we’re going to have to look at some changes.” The Angels were 29-29 after that game; they are 62-35 since.
5. Red Sox tension.
The Angels blew three leads in a 9-8 loss Sept. 16 in Boston and fumed about a pair of calls in the last inning. Closer Brian Fuentes accused umpires of being intimidated by the Fenway Park crowd, and Hunter wondered whether some teammates are intimidated by the Red Sox. “If you play nervous, you’re going to make mistakes,” Hunter fumed. “Show some [guts]!”