Angels look to carry momentum on crucial road trip ahead
MAY 25, 2014 10:10p ET
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Maybe it's still too early to be thinking about division races and the importance of road trips, but the Angels should view the next 11 days as nothing less than vital to their season.
Of course, manager Mike Scioscia is not going to do that. He's a one-game-at-a-time kind of guy, someone who refuses to look beyond the next day.
But after the Angels finished a 7-3 homestand with a 4-3 comeback victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, the importance of the team's upcoming road swing can't be ignored.
Starting Monday, the Angels play three American League West opponents -- the Seattle Mariners, Oakland A's and Houston Astros -- with a chance to build on their confidence and perhaps even take over the division lead.
Not that Scioscia will allow his club to consider such a scenario.
"I don't think there's anything we can look forward to past tomorrow's game," he said. "This schedule will swallow you up if you look too far ahead or put too much value on one game over another.
"The only way to digest this schedule is one game at a time, and that's what we're going to do."
But with 12 wins in their past 16 games, the Angels can finally feel like they're making a move. The A's have lost four in a row, so Sunday's win moved the Angels to within 1 1/2 games of first place, the closest they've been to the top spot since April 11.
After two seasons of slow starts and big deficits from which they never recovered, they finally have some momentum going.
"Wins now are just as good as wins in September," catcher Chris Iannetta said. "You can see how not winning now can put you in a hole like it did the last two years."
Iannetta played a major role in Sunday's comeback, helping the Angels from a 3-0 deficit after six innings. His single off former Angels teammate Jason Vargas leading off the seventh started a three-run rally, and his one-out homer to left field in the eighth off Tim Collins gave the Angels their first lead.
David Freese's two-run single with the bases loaded tied the game in the seventh off Kelvin Herrera.
Iannetta's home run was a line drive that landed over the low fence near the 347-foot sign, with just enough lift to find the seats.
"I knew it was fair," Scioscia said. "I didn't know if it had enough carry because he hit it hard with a little bit of top spin. But it carried out."
Defense was important, too. Left fielder Collin Cowgill made two spectacular sliding catches in foul territory, each time with a man on base.
The first time, Cowgill slid into a chair normally occupied by a ball boy, although he couldn't prevent Pedro Ciriaco from tagging up at third and scoring a run in the third inning. The second time, Cowgill slammed into the padded wall in the seventh.
"Honestly I was just focused on the ball," Cowgill said of the first catch. "I actually knew the guy was tagging, so the faster I get to the ball and pop up, we still might've had a play at the plate. The chair didn't enter my mind."
Raul Ibanez, who pinch hit for Cowgill in the seventh and replaced him in left, had to come up with his own amazing catch, back-handing a sinking fly ball off the bat of Jarrod Dyson to open the seventh.
Scioscia called all three plays "huge" but added, "The bigger one was probably the one that Raul made with Dyson up. He has that game-changing speed where he can steal a base and get in scoring position on any base hit or a walk. For (Ibanez) to make that first out in the eighth inning was a great play."
Starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who turns 26 years old on Tuesday, pitched seven innings but didn't get the win. Still, he threw well enough to keep the Angels in the game and give them a chance to win. After allowing three runs in the third, he retired 14 of the next 15 batters he faced.
Now the Angels will need to continue their success on the road, facing the Mariners for four games and the A's and Astros for three each. After a hot start, Oakland has cooled a bit, but the A's took two of three from the Angels in Anaheim last month.
If the Angels can do the same in Oakland, it would set up an interesting division race this summer.
"The big picture of this season is there's a lot of baseball left," Scioscia said. "I don't think you're going to put any more importance on one game or another right now. You need to go out there and just chew the schedule up one game at a time."