‘It sucks’: After quick exit from postseason, what’s next for Angels?

Now what? 

The Angels finally made it back to the postseason on the heels of earning the best record in baseball — 98 wins — and with the best offense, too.

Visions of a World Series danced in their heads and optimism abounded for the Angels, who hadn’t been to the postseason since 2009.

After ending five years of frustration, the Angels lost that newfound bliss in just three games in the ALDS.

The Angels were swept by the upstart Royals, who had to win a wild-card game to advance to the series, their first in 29 years. 

The Angels still haven’t won a postseason series since 2009, and they didn’t win this one because they couldn’t hit. The Royals made some fantastic catches in the outfield, but that still doesn’t explain how the Angels’ big bats went so quiet.  

This Angels team largely will be intact for the 2015 season. 

"It’s tough. It stings," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We’re all feeling this. We expected better results. But as disappointing as the series was and is right now, the guys in that clubhouse had a terrific season. They put everything aside. They played banged up. At times we didn’t have the depth we wanted to.

"… It’s a great group of guys in there. They’re feeling it right now. There’s a definite disappointment but there’s nothing they need to hang their heads about. They played hard all season. We had a rough three games."

The Angels batted a paltry .170 as a team in the three-game series, and the Royals weren’t much better at .198. The stars didn’t produce at the plate. Mike Trout didn’t get his first hit of the series until his first-inning home run of Game 3.

Angels bats go silent as Royals earn surprising sweep in ALDS.

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It was the first postseason experience for the 23-year-old Trout and a good learning experience. Trout said he spent the past three Octobers white-tail deer hunting back home in New Jersey. Now, he’s left with another mostly-open October schedule. He was 1 for 12, and the last moment of the Angels’ season was Trout’s swing and miss to end the series. 

"It sucks," Trout said. "That’s not what we planned. Great group of guys. We just fell short."

Josh Hamilton was perhaps the most frustrating case. He was 0 for 13 in the series. Former slugger Gary Sheffield, now a television analyst for TBS, publicly questioned him and said "his body language is a bad sign."

Asked how long it will take for him to get over the series, Hamilton said: "It depends on the person. Once I get home and my little girl is jumping all over me this offseason, it’s daddy time," Hamilton said.

This season was a missed opportunity, especially with aging sluggers Albert Pujols (who turns 35 in January) and Hamilton, who is 33. Hamilton used a silver lining. 

"It was a good year. Guys went down. Guys came up and filled in. That’s what good teams do," Hamilton said. "We won a lot of ballgames. The slate is wiped clean in the playoffs."

The Angels must question whether Hamilton can be healthy again as he’s 0 for 17 in his past two postseasons. He hasn’t had a postseason hit since 2011 with Texas. He went hitless in four at-bats in the playoffs in 2012 with Texas. 

Hamilton figures the Angels can use this season’s abrupt end as motivation. 

"We talk about last year on a positive note. I take this year as going to the playoffs," Hamilton said. "That’s pretty positive. That’s something to build off and fuel the fire for next year in spring training."

Hamilton is only two years into his five-year, $125 million contract. He was booed by Angels fans and, despite struggling at the plate, Scioscia stuck with him all series instead of opting for a player like Collin Cowgill.

Albert Pujols is another big-contract player (10 years, $240 million) who struggled in the postseason at 2 for 12 with one home run in Game 3 and two RBI. He was disappointed the Angels didn’t bring a World Series title to Anaheim, he said.

Jered Weaver, who just turned 32, and Matt Shoemaker threw well in Games 1 and 2, and so did the bullpen, even though the Angels lost in extra innings in both those games. Shoemaker, a 28-year-old rookie, was a pleasant surprise in winning 16 regular season games. Weaver did his usual thing and won 18 games. Garrett Richards emerged as a young talent who was 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA. His season-ending August knee surgery was a tough blow to the Angels, who missed him in the ALDS. 

C.J. Wilson, who has a five-year, $77.5 million contract, did not pitch well in the ALDS and was off this season, as he went 13-10 with a 4.51 ERA. He was pulled after he allowed a bases-clearing triple to Alex Gordon in the first inning of Game 3. And now he and Scioscia and will need to clear the air since Wilson admitted to feeling "a little upset” that he was taken out. 

The bullpen, which was sturdy all season, didn’t get the job done Sunday, either. The bullpen, however, was great at holding leads and one of the best in the majors. The acquisition of closer Huston Street, who has an option for 2015, worked like clockwork. And when starters went deep and handed the ball to the bullpen, that equaled success for the Angels.

Plus, Kole Calhoun delievered as the Angels’ leadoff man, hitting .272 with 17 homers and 58 RBI — and .333 in the ALDS.

The Angels were a great leading act in the regular season, but their shocking loss in the ALDS leads to many questions. With most of the team returning, can the Angels make the postseason in 2015, and can they make sure it has a happy ending?