By Pete Zarustica/Garden Grove Journal
Sometimes, looking backward is the best way to look forward with confidence.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are doing the one-step forward, one-step back thing, which is not going to do much toward cutting into the Texas Rangers’ big lead in the American League West.
However, even the eight- and nine-game leads the Rangers have established are no guarantees of winning a division title. Just ask long-time fans of ….the Angels.
In 1995 the California Angels had the ALW all but locked up, leading the second place Rangers by 10.5 games and the third place Seattle Mariners by 11.5 in mid-August. Playoff and World Series tickets were printed.
But the Halos imploded, losing 18 of their next 21 games to plunge in the standings.
They teased their fans with a five-game winning streak to finish the regular schedule in a tie with the M’s, then broke their hearts again with a 9-1 loss in the one-game playoff.
It was one of the worst late-season collapses in major league history. The Angels didn’t get a playoff berth again until 2002 when they qualified as a wild card team and went on to win the World Series.
Of course, the Angels can’t count on the Rangers of 2010 to fold like the Halos did 15 seasons previous. But hope spring eternal.
On Tuesday Dan Haren threw seven innings to record his first win since becoming an Angel, as Los Angeles edged Kansas City, 3-1, in the middle contest of a three-game series.
Haren (1-2), who was traded from Arizona last month, allowed five hits, a run, walked a batter and struck out three.
Fernando Rodney worked a hitless eighth inning and Brian Fuentes retired the side in order in the ninth for his 23rd save.
Bobby Abreu continued to thrive in the lead-off spot with two hits, a pair of walks and two runs scored.
Since Abreu has taken over the lead-off role, the club is 4-1. He is 7-for-16 at the plate with six runs scored. Prior to this season, Abreu had not hit in the leadoff spot since the 2007 campaign.
Erick Aybar tripled in a run, while Peter Bourjos’ squeeze bunt plated Howie Kendrick with the go-ahead tally in the fifth inning.
Hideki Matsui also drove in a run as Los Angeles posted its fourth victory in five tries.
Bryan Bullington (0-2) permitted five hits and three runs over six innings for the Royals, who lost for the fifth time in six games.
The win allowed the Angels to move over .500 again, as well as leap over the Oakland A’s into second place in the AL West.
With all four teams going 5-5 over their last 10 games, the division race remains pretty static, with Texas maintaining, for now, a comfortable lead.
The Angels will need to win the AL West pennant outright to make the 2010 playoffs.
In the American League wild card race, they are 12 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in second place in the AL East.
Additionally, there are three other teams – Boston, Toronto and the Chicago White Sox –they’d have to pass to qualify for post-season play, as well as fend off Oakland.
The series with the Royals concluded Wednesday in Anaheim. The Angels have today (Thursday) off, and then host the Toronto Blue Jays Friday through Sunday. Monday is a travel day, followed by a road trip that begins Tuesday with three games in Boston.
Following that, three games in Minnesota Aug. 20-22.
After being swept in three by the Baltimore Orioles (worst record in baseball), the Halos redeemed themselves a bit by taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers and then defeated the Kansas City Royals 6-4 on Monday in Anaheim.