Although they trailed the first-place Texas Rangers by four games through Sunday, the Angels will play considerably fewer games against teams with winning records over the season's final 51/2 weeks than their division rival.
The Angels play only 13 of their remaining 34 games against teams with records better than .500, nine fewer games than Texas plays against teams with winning records.
That could be significant since the Angels and Rangers have done the bulk of their winning against losing teams, with both teams winning exactly half their games through Sunday against teams that have .500 or better records. The Rangers are 39-21 against teams with losing records and the Angels are 36-26 against them.
Predictably, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia went with his it's-not-who-we're-playing-or-where-we're-playing-but-how-we're-playing mantra when asked about the discrepancies in the teams' remaining schedules.
"That has no bearing on what we need to do," Scioscia said Sunday after his team completed a three-game sweep of the sub.-400 Baltimore Orioles. "We need to play good baseball whoever we're playing."
That will especially be true in the final six meetings between the Angels and Rangers. The teams start a three-game series in Arlington, Texas, on Friday and then meet Sept. 26-28 at Angel Stadium in the final series of the regular season.
"That's when you can make up the most ground," Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos said of the head-to-head meetings. "You don't have to wait and see if they won or lost, so I think it's important when you're playing them that you win."
The Rangers won three of four games when the teams met last week, but the Angels took the last game on Mark Trumbo's walk-off home run, which sparked the four-game winning streak the Angels will take into a series opener against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
"One swing of the bat kind of turned us around," said Bourjos, pointing to a four-run first inning in the next game against Baltimore and what he called a different energy in the clubhouse.
In a scheduling quirk, the Angels will have two days off this week, a rarity this late in a season. Although it will provide some much-needed rest for a team that played on 19 of 20 days before Monday, the break also comes with a downside.
"I wish I could say, 'Thank you,' but [Texas has] four games they're going to play [in four days], so if they win two they can actually gain a game while we're sitting out," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "I'm thankful for it, but it can set us back a little bit."
The Little League World Series was playing out on the televisions in the Angels' clubhouse Sunday afternoon, with one player paying particularly close attention.
Catcher Hank Conger's former team, Ocean View of Huntington Beach, had already taken a five-run lead over North Oldham of La Grange, Ky., on the way to a 10-0 win.
Having reached Little League's biggest stage for the first time, Ocean View is as few as three victories away from winning the championship.
"It would be unbelievable," said Conger, whose team fell one victory short of reaching the World Series in 2000. "Ocean View, there have been a lot of good teams coming out of there the past couple of years, so for them to finally get a big win and win the whole thing would be awesome."
Conger's Little League days, when he pitched and batted leadoff, were long ago. But he still likes to keep close tabs on his former league.
Last year, Conger instructed several Ocean View players during baseball camps in Huntington Beach and then hung out with the entire team when it visited Angel Stadium.
He also called during their regional last year to wish them good luck. If Ocean View, which outscored its first two opponents, 21-0, keeps dominating, he might be getting back on the phone to offer congratulations.
Still an Angel
Outfielder Reggie Willits, who was designated for assignment last week, has cleared waivers and was reassigned to triple-A Salt Lake. He was put on the disabled list because of an Achilles' tendon injury.