With the AL West title secured, the Los Angeles Angels can focus on finishing with home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Or just being fresh for it.
The Angels scratched ace Jered Weaver a day after wrapping up the division crown and not long before he was set to face Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.
Shortly after its 5-0 victory over Seattle on Wednesday, Los Angeles (95-57) clinched the division when Texas scored six times in the ninth to beat Oakland 6-1.
"We’re here to win, we want to go all the way," C.J. Wilson said after he went seven innings and yielded the Mariners’ only hit of the night to Justin Smoak.
After finishing third in the West each of the past two seasons despite a high-priced, talented roster, the Angels finally met expectations by winning their first division crown since 2009.
”I feel like we’ve been special for three years," Wilson said. "We just haven’t put it all together until now.”
Owner of the majors’ best record, Los Angeles was four games behind the first-place Athletics on Aug. 10 but has gone 27-8 since. Now, it leads Baltimore by three games for the best record in baseball.
”They’ve won so many games in such a short amount of time, and it’s really a credit to every guy,” said manager Mike Scioscia, who won his sixth AL West title in 11 seasons. ”We’re going to enjoy the champagne and then go try to win (Thursday).”
C.J. Cron’s three-run homer highlighted a five-run seventh for the Angels, who celebrated with those fans who stuck around the ballpark to watch Oakland lose on the venue’s video screen.
"We’re lucky to get to celebrate with our fans,” Wilson said.
While it’s uncertain how many regulars will take the field for the Angels on Thursday, Weaver definitely won’t. The team announced six hours before game time that he would not make this scheduled start, giving extra rest to the AL wins leader.
Weaver is being replaced by Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 6.88 ERA), eliminating what would have been another matchup between two of baseball’s top pitchers.
Hernandez (14-5, 2.14) defeated Weaver in both teams’ season opener March 31, giving up two earned runs and striking out 11 in six innings of a 10-3 win. The Mariners star is 1-0 in his other two outings against the Angels this year and dominated both, allowing one earned run and six hits over 15 2-3 innings with 18 strikeouts.
Since giving up five runs on four homers in seven innings of an 8-3 loss to Washington on Aug. 29, Hernandez is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last three outings. The right-hander gave up two runs and struck out eight over seven innings of a 3-2, 10-inning defeat to Oakland on Saturday.
"I just have to go out there and do what I can do to win a game," Hernandez told MLB’s official website.
Though Mike Trout is 3 for 12 with seven strikeouts in the last four games, he’s batting .383 (18 for 47) with three doubles, two triples and two homers against Hernandez.
LeBlanc (0-1) has pitched well in five relief appearances since getting called up from the minors earlier this month, allowing one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings. He had been demoted a day after getting ripped in his only start for the Angels on Aug. 25, giving up six runs and seven hits with three walks in 3 1-3 innings of a 7-1 loss to Miami.
The left-hander hasn’t started against the Mariners since 2010 but has a 10.32 ERA in four career games against them.