ANAHEIM, Calif. – There’s no secret to what’s happening here. The Angels are playing for their postseason lives, so the results on the field aren’t all that matters.
They’re checking the scoreboard, waiting and watching to see how the Oakland A’s are doing and counting down the days to the end of the regular season.
This is what their season has become – playing and watching and hoping.
“Trust me, we’re scoreboard watching,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “I don’t care what nobody says – I am.”
The Angels won a big game Tuesday night and achieved a number of milestones, but really, the only thing that matters is the American League wild card standings.
Their 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners came after the A’s beat the Texas Rangers in 10 innings, leaving the Angels two games out of the second wild card spot and only one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, who have won six in a row.
With eight games left in their season, the Angels can only keep winning. Every loss brings them closer to elimination.
“We can only control what we can control,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We need to keep winning.”
So far, they’re doing that, picking up their fourth consecutive victory and eighth in 11 games. They are now 16 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season, but they can’t be concerned with anything but the standings.
Nor can they celebrate the fact they tied a major league record by striking out 20 batters – 13 by starter Zack Greinke, three by Garrett Richards and two each by Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri.
Greinke, in fact, became the first starting pitcher since the live ball era in 1920 to record 13 or more strikeouts in a start lasting five innings or fewer. The only reason he didn’t keep pitching is that he threw 110 pitches, including 27 in the first inning that served as an indication it might be a short night.
Greinke called his strikeout total “fluky,” and perhaps it was. Of the first seven outs he recorded, seven were strikeouts; he also recorded four strikeouts in the fourth, thanks to a strikeout and wild pitch that allowed Trayvon Robinson to reach base.
“I was just trying to get guys out, and it just worked out that I got a lot of strikeouts early,” he said. “The No. 1 problem is that it takes too much energy and wears you down.”
In a way, it’s becoming draining to watch the Angels. They almost let a 5-1 lead slip away when left-hander Scott Downs gave up three runs in the seventh, but Jepsen and then Frieri shut down the Mariners to collect the final seven outs.
The Angels got home runs from Hunter and Erick Aybar, and they scored two runs in the first to give Greinke an early cushion. It was just enough to allow them to steal looks at the scoreboard in right field.
“You’re glancing, sure,” Scioscia said.
Sometimes, the score isn’t always what they’re hoping to see, as it was Tuesday night when the A’s beat the Rangers.
“That sucks,” Hunter said. But it doesn’t change their task.
“We gotta win, no matter what,” he said. “Regardless, we’re going to focus on what we need to do on the field. We ain’t worried about (the A’s). But when you look up, you go, ‘Ah, man. OK, let’s do what we have to do here.’
“All we can do is worry about what we’ve got to do here.”