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A spring in their steps?

September 20, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Scioscia insists his team has played to win since clinching the division title 10 days ago. Yet there's no escaping that some of the Angels' recent outings have felt more like spring training contests than games at the end of the regular season.

Take Friday's 15-13 win over the Texas Rangers. Not only did Scioscia start the game with three players who weren't even on his big league roster four months ago, but he ended it with Francisco Rodriguez in the bullpen, not on the mound, in a save situation.

And in between the teams combined for a spring-like 28 runs, 41 hits and five home runs while using 32 players, including 11 pitchers.

"That," Scioscia said, "was something."

What, exactly, he couldn't say. But what it wasn't, he repeated, was an audition for the Angels' postseason roster.

"We're not going to hold tryouts here yet," said Scioscia, whose team blew a 7-0 lead when the Rangers scored nine times in the third inning, yet still managed to win. "There's still some goals for us to reach from now to the end of the season. That's what we're going to focus on. Not a fact-finding mission."

Every Angel who batted had a hit, seven had at least two and the top three hitters in the lineup -- Erick Aybar, Garret Anderson and Mark Teixeira -- combined to go 10 for 17 with seven runs and six RBIs. Catcher Mike Napoli matched a career high with three hits while falling a single short of the cycle.

"I feel like I'm starting to figure it out a little bit," said Napoli, who helped the Angels to season highs in runs (15) and hits (22) as well as their ninth win in 12 games.

Milestone win

Reliever Darren Oliver worked 2 1/3 innings to earn the 100th win of his 16-year big league career.

"It don't matter. Nobody's going to remember how you got to it," said Oliver, who has won games in 31 ballparks -- including several that no longer exist.

The next challenge, he said, will be to keep the game ball he received Friday away from his two sons.

"Hopefully my kids won't start playing with it . . . in the pool or something," he said. "I'll have to hide it from them."

Aybar active

Aybar, who sat out nearly a month because of a tight left hamstring, played his first full game since Aug. 27 and made the most of it, joining Napoli in matching a career high with three hits, scoring three times and driving in a pair of runs. He also made a nice turn on a double play and survived an aggressive slide at second base.

"He felt good," Scioscia said.

Rotation ready

After Dustin Moseley's spot start today, his third of the month, Scioscia said he'll keep his starters pitching on four days' rest through the end of the season. That means ace John Lackey, who had a nine-day break before his last outing Tuesday in Oakland, will get two more regular-season starts before taking the ball in the Angels' playoff opener either Oct. 1 or 2.

Ervin Santana, pushed back two days to Monday to give him seven days of rest, will also pitch twice more in September then probably start the second postseason game, followed by Joe Saunders.


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