ANAHEIM -- The party continued until almost sunrise on Wednesday night, the Angels taking their clinching celebration from the field to their clubhouse to the popular Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa, which stayed open exclusively for the players after 2 a.m. PT and lined up cabs outside, ensuring everyone would arrive home safely.
The next afternoon, the awkward stage of the regular season ensued, with the American League West title wrapped up and 10 games nonetheless remaining. The Angels must now strike the perfect balance between locking up the AL's top seed, resting up for the playoffs, establishing momentum heading into October and maintaining the integrity of the game with regard to other playoff races.
Thursday was an exception to the latter.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia gave his regulars a day off against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, sitting all of his position players and scratching his ace, Jered Weaver, in favor of Wade LeBlanc.
Instead, Weaver will start Saturday, taking the spot vacated by Matt Shoemaker and his mild oblique strain, then start again in the last Friday of the regular season and take the ball for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday, Oct. 2, putting the soon-to-be 32-year-old on five days' rest in the latter two starts.
"The way he threw the ball last time, you could see his stuff has been coming, and I think he'll maintain it," Scioscia said of Weaver, who's 17-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 200 1/3 innings. "But I don't think it's ever a bad thing getting an extra day."
The Angels are already guaranteed home-field advantage in their ALDS, and they entered Thursday with a three-game lead on the Orioles for the best record in the AL, a distinction that would grant them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, as well as the World Series because the AL won the All-Star Game.
"It's important," Scioscia said of maintaining the top seed. But he also wants to give the likes of Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout ample time to get fresh -- and therein lies the difficult balance.
"We're going to keep our edge and keep playing hard," Scioscia said. "But I don't think it [home-field advantage] has the importance of putting guys at risk for injury."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read 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.