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ANGELS 5, TEXAS 2

Angels see playoff picture

By beating the Rangers, the Angels help Boston earn the American League wild card and will face the Red Sox in a division series next week.

September 30, 2009|BEN BOLCH | ON THE ANGELS

The big picture is set.

The Angels will open the American League division series next week against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium.

It's the details that have Manager Mike Scioscia's mind aflutter as the Angels try to give themselves the best chance to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Among the issues confronting Scioscia in the coming days: How should he align his starting rotation for the postseason? Should the starting pitcher headed for the bullpen make a few relief appearances before the playoffs? How much rest can position players receive over the next five days without losing their edge?

Scioscia did some preemptive shuffling Tuesday before the Angels' 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium, using a lineup that included four reserves and pitcher Sean O'Sullivan, a late replacement for scheduled starter Scott Kazmir.

Scioscia said setting his rotation for the playoffs would be his most important decision in the next week. He pushed back Kazmir's start a few days to give the left-hander additional rest and will do the same for Jered Weaver and John Lackey.

The manager said his starters would each make one more appearance in the regular season, though one might have to piggyback on another's start. They also could have the length of their outings curtailed.

"They don't need to be going out there and cranking 115 pitches," Scioscia said.

O'Sullivan (4-2) needed 65 pitches to complete five innings and help the Angels eliminate the Rangers from playoff contention. Three relievers combined for four scoreless innings, with Brian Fuentes pitching a perfect ninth for his major league-leading 46th save.

Bobby Abreu hit a home run and pinch-hitter Mike Napoli hit a two-run single for the Angels, whose lineup included reserves Reggie Willits, Gary Matthews Jr., Robb Quinlan and Brandon Wood.

By the fifth inning, the game took on a spring-training feel as seldom-used Freddy Sandoval replaced Chone Figgins at third base and Terry Evans took over for Abreu in right field.

Chris Pettit, a San Dimas High and Loyola Marymount product, singled to left field in the seventh inning in his first at-bat in the major leagues.

Scioscia figures to use his bench freely throughout the week as he tries to balance the need to recharge regulars and keep them sharp for the postseason.

Count Figgins among the everyday players who might resist a day off.

"I want to keep playing," Figgins said. "I like to keep that confidence and that consistency going, the constant rhythm of being at the plate and being on defense."

Reliever Kevin Jepsen recently discovered the potential downside to an extended layoff when he had trouble controlling his pitches following a five-day break.

"It's almost like if you get too many days off, at least for me, stuff kind of gets out of whack," Jepsen said. ". . . So maybe I want to get a couple of more outings to make sure everything's good going into the playoffs."

The Angels could have three days off between their regular-season finale Sunday and their playoff opener. The New York Yankees, who have secured the best record in the AL, can decide whether to start their playoff series Wednesday or Thursday against the AL Central champion.

If the Yankees series starts Wednesday, then the Angels series would begin Thursday, and vice versa. Last year it was the Angels who had the league's best record, picked a later starting date and ended up losing to Boston in four games in the division series.

This year, it's one decision Scioscia won't have to make.

--

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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