The Angels’ dismal second half has cost the team two spots in the standings and left them straining to maintain contact in a wild-card race that is now entering the home stretch.
But veteran closer Huston Street said frustration over the poor play hasn’t spilled over into a clubhouse that remains confident.
“When things are happening like that out there [on the field] you need to be stronger in the clubhouse. And I think this team showed signs of that,” he said. “The best way to put an end to it is to put an end to it.
“Figure out a way to win. That’s what the good teams do.”
It’s what the Angels did Tuesday, with Kole Calhoun collecting three hits, including his 21st home run, to back seven strong innings from right-hander Matt Shoemaker in a 6-2 win over the Oakland Athletics.
The victory ended a four-game losing streak and kept the Angels within 31/2 games of the Texas Rangers in the battle for the American League’s final playoff berth, a deficit Street considered “a blessing” given the Angels’ dismal August.
If the Angels played in the National League, they would be 91/2 games out of a wild-card berth.
“We absolutely have to play with a certain sense of urgency,” Street said. “The only way for a ship to turn around is for somebody to take it and turn it around.
“The beauty of where we sit right now is we can have one good month and we’re in the postseason. But we’ve got to play better.”
Agreed Shoemaker: “That’s what we need to get going. We still have over a month to go. We know that we’re more than capable of being where we want to be, in the postseason.”
Getting healthy would also help, and the Angels also took a step in that direction Tuesday, activating five players from the disabled list. Manager Mike Scioscia has taken pains to avoid using the injuries as an excuse for his team’s slump, but they were a reason he used 10 infielders last month while starting three outfielders who weren’t even in the organization six weeks ago.
Two of the players who returned Tuesday, infielders David Freese and Taylor Featherston, made immediate impacts, with Featherston singling and scoring in the Angels’ four-run third, and Freese doing the same in the fourth.
Catcher Carlos Perez also had two hits and scored a run.
“The bottom of the order did a great job,” Scioscia said. “With some guys back, our lineup deepens.”
Featherston also contributed a sterling defensive play that probably saved a run in the ninth.
Shoemaker (7-9) gave up a home run to Brett Lawrie, the second batter he faced, but allowed only four hits over the next six innings. And with that the Angels, who lost nine of their last 11 in August, are unbeaten in September.
Coincidence, Scioscia insisted.
“Whatever day the calendar says is really not the issue. The issue is continuing to improve as a team,” he said.
Street wasn’t so sure.
“Sometimes baseball happens in months,” he said. “Sometimes it is nice to just change the calendar.”
Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney (5-2, 3.11 ERA) will get the final start of the trip in Wednesday’s 12:30 p.m. matinee at the O.co Coliseum, opposing Cy Young candidate Sonny Gray (12-6, 2.13). TV: FS West. Radio: 830, 1330.