It’s an awkward and unexpected position for a team with a $159-million payroll, a superstar-filled roster and World Series aspirations, but the Angels are not too proud to admit it.
They need help.
“We’re going to need some teams to stub their toe a bit,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, “but it’s not going to mean anything if we don’t take care of the games we’re playing. The best way to pressure the teams ahead of you is to win.”
The Angels did that in convincing fashion Tuesday night, busting out for eight runs in the fourth inning and riding Jered Weaver’s 100th career win to an 11-3 victory over Texas that moved them to within 61/2 games of the Rangers in the American League West with 14 games left.
One team ahead of the Angels in the wild-card race stubbed its toe, as leader Oakland lost to Detroit. Baltimore scored twice in the ninth inning to tie the game and went on to win, 4-2, in 18 innings, so the Angels still remain three games behind the Orioles for the second wild-card spot.
The Angels played Tuesday without slugger Albert Pujols, who remained in Kansas City to be with his wife, Deidre, who delivered the couple’s fifth child Sunday.
The team missed their first baseman’s power, but not his production. Though 10 of their 11 hits were singles, the Angels went six for 13 with runners in scoring position and bunched five hits in the fourth.
Erick Aybar had three hits, his .377 clip (58 for 154) since the beginning of August raising his average from .257 to .295.
“We kept pushing it,” Scioscia said. “We had some good situational hitting and passed the baton. We weren’t killing the ball, but we got some big hits and ran the bases well.”
Weaver, who improved to 18-4 this season and 100-51 in his career, gave up a solo homer to Mike Napoli and a two-run shot to Ian Kinsler in the third, but he blanked the Rangers on three hits over the next four innings to improve to 9-0 against Texas at home.
“They gave me a little cushion after I gave up the three-spot, and that picked up my confidence,” said Weaver, the sixth pitcher in Angels history to record 100 wins with the club. “It was nice after getting deflated to get pumped up a bit.”
The Angels turned a 3-1 deficit into a 9-3 lead with their bizarre eight-run rally, in which two runs scored on a wild pitch and the Angels batted for 39 minutes. The inning lasted so long that Weaver, who has battled shoulder tightness, threw in the indoor batting cage to stay loose. Twice.
“It felt like a rain delay,” Weaver said, “but when runs are coming across the board, you can’t complain.”
Vernon Wells singled, Alberto Callaspo walked, and Chris Iannetta’s two-run single off the right-field wall tied the score at 3-3. Mike Trout walked, and Texas went to reliever Tanner Scheppers, who hit Aybar with his first pitch to load the bases.
Scheppers then bounced a pitch past Napoli and to the backstop. Iannetta scored, knocking Scheppers down with his slide, and when Napoli’s throw to the plate hit umpire Jim Wolf and ricocheted away, Trout sprinted home.
“I’ve seen two runs score on a wild pitch,” Scioscia said, “but never with the umpire giving an assist.”
Scheppers left because of a bruised right knee and was replaced by Mark Lowe. The Angels were just getting warmed up.
Torii Hunter walked, and Kendrys Morales’ run-scoring infield single made it 6-3. Howie Kendrick added an RBI single, Wells hit a sacrifice fly, and Callaspo capped the rally with an RBI double.