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ANGELS 7, OAKLAND 4

Morales, Napoli lift Angels past A's

They each homer and the Angels get a strong start from Joe Saunders in win over Oakland.

September 28, 2009|KEVIN BAXTER | ON THE ANGELS

It took nearly six months and 155 games to get here, but now the regular season comes down to one game for the Angels.

No more complicated mathematical formulas, no more magic numbers, no more scoreboard watching. Win one more game against the Texas Rangers and they capture their fifth American League West title in six seasons.

"The challenge is very clear," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We need to win a game. That's it."

It could happen tonight. But it really doesn't matter when the Angels do it, as long as they do it before the second-place Rangers leave town for the weekend. So even if they lose tonight, the Angels get to try again Tuesday. And Wednesday. And Thursday.

But it does matter how they do it, Scioscia said. Because after treading water through most of September, losing as often as they won, the Angels beat Oakland, 7-4, on Sunday with the kind of well-rounded effort they're going to need if they hope to go far in the postseason.

"Today's ballgame is much more in line with things that we've done all season. And certainly need to continue to do," Scioscia said. "Our defense was terrific. Our situational hitting was good. We drove the ball, ran the bases well, got the pitching we needed, got some key outs in the bullpen late in the game.

"It feels good to see us go out there and play the way we're capable of playing."

The Angels ended a season-high four-game losing streak by turning two key double plays, going four for seven with runners in scoring position (including Kendry Morales' two-run homer), stealing a base, getting effective pitching from starter Joe Saunders, then topping it all off by having three relievers combine to hold the A's to two hits while getting the final nine outs.

Morales was in the middle of most of the action, going three for three, driving in three runs, scoring twice and killing an Oakland rally by starting a double play.

The homer was his 32nd of the season and the three RBIs gave him 102, both team highs.

Mike Napoli also homered, giving him a franchise-record 62 as a catcher, and a scoreless ninth inning upped Brian Fuentes' major league-leading saves total to 45.

"We needed this for a bunch of different reasons," Saunders (15-7) said after winning his sixth consecutive decision since coming off the disabled list. "We haven't been playing very good baseball the last few games. [Now] we control our own destiny. And we know what's right in front of us."

That would be the Rangers.

"The way everything's evolved is, we need to beat them one game," Scioscia said. "We turn the page on today's game and get ready for tomorrow's."

They will send Ervin Santana, winless in his last six starts, to the mound. And if that doesn't work out they'll follow with Scott Kazmir, Jered Weaver and John Lackey -- who are a combined 27-18 with a 3.67 ERA for the Angels this season

"One of those guys has to win," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "If you were a betting man, then you probably would bet on the Angels. They've got a pretty good pitching staff over there, but I'll take my chances with ours."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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