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Scioscia tries to guard against complacency

ANGELS FYI

August 12, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

Mike Scioscia's one-game-at-a-time mantra could be put to an extreme test over the final seven weeks of the season.

The Angels are running away with the American League West -- their lead is 14 games entering tonight's game against Seattle -- and the manager is already fielding questions about whether it will be difficult to maintain a competitive edge entering the playoffs when there could be so few meaningful games in September, especially those final 17 games against lesser division foes.

"Our challenge is . . . every day, there's a team out there that can beat you, a lineup that can score a lot of runs, and a pitcher that can shut you down," Scioscia said.

"Our focus is on our game right now. The standings are irrelevant. We have a lot of areas that we need to keep moving forward with if we're going to be the team that we want to be."

This will come as no comfort to the Angels, who are a major league-best 74-43, but in the last 10 years, only one team with the best regular-season record, the 2007 Boston Red Sox, has won the World Series.

Remember that 2001 Seattle juggernaut that won 116 regular-season games? The Yankees blew away the Mariners in the AL Championship Series.

"It's easy to get comfortable," third baseman Chone Figgins said, "but when you're used to winning, that carries over a lot."

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Tunnel vision

Scioscia isn't concerned about complacency setting in.

"These guys come to the park ready to go every day," he said. "You want to focus on things you can control, and the only thing that's really in our hands is that game tonight, pitch to pitch, inning to inning. That's where we need to be."

The Angels have been so hot, combining stout pitching with clutch hitting and power to go 17-5 since the All-Star break and sweep the New York Yankees over the weekend, that it's hard not to wonder: Could they be peaking too soon?

"You can't think about that, you have to just play the game," second baseman Howie Kendrick said. "Nobody is going to say, 'Well, we're winning a lot, now we're going to lose today because we're winning too many games.' After struggling earlier in the year, we're just all playing well at the same time and having fun."

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Long shot

Kendrick's .325 average would lead the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, but a hamstring strain that knocked Kendrick out for six weeks in April and May will likely put that title out of reach.

Kendrick has 288 plate appearances and would need 214 more, or an average of 4.75 a game in the Angels' last 45 games, to reach the 502 required to qualify.

"It'd be nice to sneak in there at the end -- it would be like stealing candy," Kendrick said. "It would be great to win, but I haven't even thought about it. I just want to finish strong, keep winning and push to the postseason."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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