Despite win, Angels erased from playoff picture

Despite win, Angels erased from playoff picture

Despite win, Angels erased from playoff picture
SEATTLE -- Even in the middle of his final regular-season start at Safeco Field on Monday night, C.J. Wilson found himself a little distracted. Between innings, the Angels' left-hander couldn't help himself from glancing at the left-field scoreboard to check on the score of the Athletics-Rangers game.

For a while now, the Angels -- with all their talent, all their track record, all their expectations and all their money -- have been a team in desperate need of outside help.

They've received little.

And so, their series-opening 8-4 victory over the Mariners, which put them one win away from reaching 90 for the first time since 2009, meant nothing. The A's beat the Rangers, and now the Angels -- on an uphill climb for most of this season -- have been mathematically eliminated.

"Even in between innings, I was trying not to look at the score and still caught myself looking at the score when I was pitching," said Wilson, who revealed postgame that he's been pitching with bone spurs in his elbow for the last couple of months. "I was disappointed. But like I said, you can't count on anybody else to help you out."

Last year, the Angels were eliminated from postseason contention in Game No. 160. This year, Game No. 160 -- one that saw Wilson notch a quality start and Mike Trout notch four hits against Felix Hernandez -- had the same effect. The A's continued on their Cinderella story to beat Texas in Oakland, 4-3, to notch their fourth straight victory and clinch their first playoff berth since 2006.

"Obviously we had to have one eye on what was going on," said manager Mike Scioscia, who addressed the team postgame. "We played a good ballgame, it's obviously a little quiet in our clubhouse. We're disappointed that we didn't reach our goal this season. I think there's a lot of good things that happened. We fell short, but we're going to take the positives and move forward, and hopefully finish strong."

That final score flashed at Safeco Field around the eighth inning, ensuring the Angels would miss the postseason for the third straight year. But this one was different from the other two. This is the one that began with the offseason signings of Wilson and Albert Pujols, putting the payroll at its highest ever and implanting aspirations of dethroning the Rangers in the AL West.

"That doesn't hand you the championship, you still have to go out there and perform," said Pujols, who struggled mightily through a homerless April. "We knew what kind of ballclub we had, but at the same time, we knew we had to go out there and perform and do the best we can to try to be in the postseason and see if we can bring a championship trophy back to the city of Anaheim. Obviously that didn't happen, there's always next year, hopefully we can learn and have a better start than we did this year."

In some ways, the Angels can't fault themselves for their current predicament. Since Aug. 21, they've gone 27-11, good for the best record in the AL, but have gained just one game in the Wild Card race.

In some ways, they can. Their 6-14 start to the season put them in an early hole. A 14-22 start to the second half spoiled all the work they had done making the early uphill climb. And losing six of 10 starting Sept. 10 -- a week that began with them only one game back of a playoff spot -- left them scrambling once more.

"Everybody's disappointed," Pujols said. "We thought we had a pretty good ballclub to try to make the postseason and we didn't. We're going to have hopefully the same core coming back next year, and hopefully we can have a better year."

Trout finished a homer shy of the cycle, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs to notch his 16th game of three-plus hits this season -- passing Wally Joyner in 1986 for the most in club history by a rookie.

On Sunday, Trout became the first player in Major League history to combine at least 45 steals with 30 homers and 125 runs in one season. After Monday's performance, his batting average stood at .325, which is second in the AL only to Cabrera, who currently leads in all Triple Crown categories.

The Angels continued their inexplicable assault on Hernandez this season, touching him for seven runs on a season-high 12 hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Mariners' ace has a 6.25 ERA in five starts against the Angels this season. In 28 starts against everyone else, though, his ERA is 2.56.

"Sometimes it's that way," Mariners skipper Eric Wedge said. "It's a game of adjustments, as we said so many different times. At some point in time, whether it be an individual or a team against another team, sometimes you just don't match up well."

Wilson, who gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings when he faced the Mariners on Wednesday, got the win after being charged with three runs (two earned) on six hits and five walks in 6 1/3 innings. It was his first quality start since Sept. 8 and his final start of the regular season.

Wilson's first year in an Angels uniform finished at 13-10 with a 3.83 ERA.

And now it's guaranteed that he won't make another start in 2012.

"Obviously, we fell short," Wilson said. "We have two more games, so for us, I think there's still a lot of pride left to win those games. But I think overall, if you take a step back and assess the year, there are some times that as individual players we didn't play as we expected to play, and as a team, we let ourselves down a little bit."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.