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Angels know they are capable despite 0-2 series deficit against Royals

Angels know they are capable despite 0-2 series deficit against Royals
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia was a 22-year-old Dodgers catcher in 1981 when that club became the first to erase a 2-0 deficit and win a best-of-five series. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It's a fine mess the Angels have gotten themselves into, losing the first two games of the American League division series, both 11-inning nail-biters, to the Kansas City Royals at home, their high-powered offense scratching and clawing just to get runners in scoring position.

Of the 68 teams in major league history to lose the first two games of a five-game series, only eight have come back to win the next three games, and just two did so after losing the first two games at home.

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Those are the long odds the Angels face entering Game 3 on Sunday, when Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson opposes Royals ace James Shields before a rollicking crowd in Kauffman Stadium.

But improbable does not mean impossible, as Angels Manager Mike Scioscia knows. He was a 22-year-old Dodgers catcher in 1981 when that club became the first to erase a 2-0 deficit and win a best-of-five series, beating the Houston Astros en route to a World Series title.

"You're young, and you really don't understand the grind, but you just know that the series isn't finished until somebody wins three games," Scioscia said. "There's not a lot of words our guys need in that clubhouse. There's not a lot of experience they need to draw off of. Hopefully, with a couple games, a couple at-bats, they're going to attack the ball a little better."

The Angels and Royals played 22 innings in the first two games. The Angels did not hold a lead in any of them. The teams have hit two homers each, but both Kansas City clouts came in the 11th inning, Mike Moustakas' solo shot in Game 1 and Eric Hosmer's two-run shot in Game 2.

The Angels led the major leagues with 773 runs and have three prolific hitters in Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick.

But they batted .141 (10 for 71) as a team and scored three runs in the first two games, going one for 13 with runners in scoring position. Trout, Pujols, Kendrick and Josh Hamilton combined to go two for 34 with eight strikeouts.

The Angels, despite their major league-best 98-64 record, had four losing streaks of three games or more. But they also had 13 win streaks of three games or more.

"There's been a couple of balls, a couple pitches that we could have squared up that we just didn't," closer Huston Street said. "A lot of times, I think people overreact because it's the postseason, and the finality of it stares you right in the face.

"But how many times have we had two close games like that and you come out of them saying, 'Man, we're playing well, we just need to score a couple more runs.' That's how we think. We've gone on three-game win streaks a lot this season."

The Royals' stout pitching and seemingly impenetrable defense have left the Angels a little discombobulated. They had 26 sacrifice bunts this season, but Scioscia called for three bunts in the late innings of Game 1. Two were properly executed but did not lead to runs. One was popped up for an out.

Then, in a situation that screamed for a bunt, Scioscia let Chris Iannetta swing away after C.J. Cron's leadoff double in the eighth inning of Game 2. With the score tied, 1-1, Iannetta flied to medium left-center field, and pinch-runner Collin Cowgill was gunned down at third by center fielder Jarrod Dyson.

Scioscia would prefer not to make such hand-wringing, late-inning decisions, and he wouldn't have to if the Angels' offense got hot, produced an early lead and got the game "on our terms," as Scioscia likes to say.

The Angels know they are capable. So do the Royals.

"To win two and come home with our ace on the mound, it's definitely a good feeling," Hosmer said. "But at the same time, we realize how dangerous that team is. When you've got teams like that on the ropes, you've got to take advantage of it and put them away."

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Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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