Angels ace Jered Weaver watches the game against the Rangers on Friday night… (Tony Gutierrez / Associated…)
Reporting from Arlington, Texas — With more than 30 games left on the schedule Angels Manager Mike Scioscia was reluctant to attach too much importance to his team's three-game showdown with the division-leading Texas Rangers this weekend.
But he acknowledged the prospect of playing meaningful games in the final month is more appealing than the way the Angels finished last year, when they limped home in third place.
"Anytime you see a goal ahead that is attainable and you have games that are obviously going to impact you getting to your goal … the fun stays in the game," he said Friday. "Last year [when] we were eliminated, games take on a little different feel. The fact that you're in a pennant race and you have an objective, you have a goal, and you're trying to reach that goal, keeps those juices flowing."
Reliever Rich Thompson expects those juices to keep flowing through the final series of the year, which will bring the Rangers to Anaheim for three games.
"It's going to come to down to the wire," he said of the pennant race.
Putting it to rest
Neither Ervin Santana nor Jered Weaver has ever started a big league game on three days' rest. But the Angels plan to use both on short recovery this weekend and insist it's no big deal.
"I know it's not the norm, but it's not like it's something where it's alarming. Or should be alarming," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "There's absolutely nothing that's changed, except it's one less day."
Both pitchers have endured heavy workloads this season. Santana is 7-1 with a 1.95 ERA in his last 11 starts, but he's averaged 109 pitches a game during than span and started Friday having thrown the most pitches in the majors in August.
And only three pitchers in baseball — Detroit's Justin Verlander, Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Angels teammate Dan Haren — have thrown more pitches this season than Weaver.
Santana, who is scheduled to pitch Saturday, declined to talk about the juggled rotation while Weaver, Sunday's scheduled starter, shrugged off the topic.
"I don't think it's a big deal really," he said.
By moving Santana and Weaver up, the Angels were able to skip over both Joel Pineiro, who hasn't won since the All-Star break, and minor league call-up Jerome Williams, who has won just one big league game since 2005.
"This is something we considered occasionally," Scioscia said. "These guys have plenty in their tank. I don't think it's a situation where short rest means a shorter pitch count. As far as stamina, my gosh we're talking one day sooner for one time.
"These guys are ready for it and they're fine."
Hank Conger will play in the Arizona Fall League after the season, allowing him to work on his defense with catching instructor Orlando Mercado. ... When Texas' Michael Young popped out to Mark Trumbo in the first inning Friday, it marked the first time this season he popped out to an infielder. That left the Angels' Howie Kendrick as the only regular in the majors who has yet to be retired on an infield pop-up. … Mike Napoli had two hits and scored three times for the Rangers, raising his season average against his former team to .379.