Angels not ready to give up on challenging season
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Somehow, the Angels were able to wash away the horror of the previous seven days.
Think it was easy? It wasn't, not the way they played – and certainly not the way they lost – in Oakland and Texas.
But in baseball, there's no time for crying, no time for wallowing in self-misery. Every loss hurts, but players find a way to move on.
The Angels' 8-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night at Anaheim Stadium put a bit of salve on their wounds. But their deficit in the American League West is still 13½ games, and with two months left in the season, it seems likely they will miss the postseason for a fourth consecutive year.
So what can they do? Keep playing and keep hoping.
"We're not going to cash in the season and just play it out, and if we lose the rest of the way, who cares?" catcher Chris Iannetta said. "Everyone has a sense of pride, and everyone wants to win. We're not going to give up, and we’re not just going to roll over. We’re going to play for something."
Right now, they're playing to put the past behind them. They lost six games in a row to their division rivals, the last three in excruciating fashion – walk-off home runs by the Rangers.
You don't forget those games easily, but the Angels must find a way, if for no other reason than their pride.
"We're not worried about Texas," second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "We're worried about playing hard, playing clean and having good at-bats."
They finally got all of that. Garrett Richards threw impressively over seven innings, Mark Trumbo hit his 24th home run of the season, and the Angels scored seven runs in the first three innings against Toronto starter Josh Johnson.
For Richards, it was another chance to prove he belongs in the rotation. He threw five shutout innings last Saturday against the A's and held the Blue Jays without a run through four innings Thursday.
"I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunity," he said.
There should be more opportunities for several players. During the 1-6 road trip, third baseman Alberto Callaspo and reliever Scott Downs were traded and Albert Pujols was put on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his left foot. Left-hander Sean Burnett is out for the year with a small tear in a tendon near his elbow, and expected closer Ryan Madson hasn’t pitched all season in a failed attempt to come back from Tommy John surgery.
Among the contributors Thursday were newly summoned infielder Chris Nelson, who had two hits and scored a run, and right fielder Kole Calhoun, who had two singles and scored twice.
The Angels hope to get back left-handed starter Jason Vargas soon, but they'll know more after he throws a simulated game Saturday. It's uncertain when he'll return to the rotation, but it's possible it may be too late to help a team that hasn’t been above .500 since its opening-day win over the Cincinnati Reds.
"We've dug a big hole for ourselves," manager Mike Scioscia said, "but nobody's giving up on the season. We know what we're up against, but this team can get on a run, and hopefully, once we get our pitching settled, especially our rotation, we'll give ourselves better chances to win games and get on a roll."
It will have to be a very long roll. But there's always a chance.