To reach the postseason, the Angels need to do one thing: win while crossing their fingers at the same time.
Simple, but not so simple.
Every game is going to get tougher, every opponent more difficult to beat. But that’s what makes September baseball special, especially in a division race.
Win and you stay alive. Lose and your playoff chances slowly drift away.
The Angels are precisely in that position. They can’t afford to lose — and Friday night they almost did.
Their 9-7 win over the Kansas City Royals kept them afloat in the American League wild card race. Coupled with the New York Yankees’ 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, it moved the Angels to within 2½ games of a playoff spot.
Their fate is not in their hands, but it doesn’t mean they have no chance. They do. They just have to keep winning and hope another team – in this case the Yankees – lose at the same time.
Their victory over the Royals was a bit of an oddity, but at this point in the season, you take them any way you can.
The Angels came back from a 3-0 deficit in the third inning, took a 4-3 lead in fourth, fell behind again 6-4 in the sixth, then went ahead for good in the eighth.
The key turning points: a two-run pinch-hit home run from Kendrys Morales that tied the game 7-7 and, four batters later, a bases-loaded walk to Torii Hunter that forced in the go-ahead run.
The Angels must play with a sense of urgency, and on this occasion, they did. Morales’ homer was only the second pinch homer run of the season by the Angels. The Royals turned him around, bringing in left-hander Tim Colllins to force the switch-hitting Morales to bat right-handed. They had good reason: Morales is a .231 hitter from the right side, compared to .290 from the left.
But on a night he needed to come through, he did.
The Angels added an insurance run in the ninth when Vernon Wells’ drive to right-center was dropped by Royals center fielder Jason Bourgeois for a three-base error. A walk and a fielder’s choice on a ground ball by Kole Calhoun brought home Wells. One run, no hits. Sometimes you have to steal a run when you can.
The win was the second in a row for the Angels after losing three straight to the A’s last week. They were down and dejected Saturday night, but now they realize the race for the wild card isn’t over.
They can still win it – if they can keep their fingers crossed.