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Angels get a win to keep hope alive, beating Toronto, 10-6

Mark Trumbo and Vernon Wells homer in a victory that moves Angels to within 3½ games of wild-card leader Boston. But they stay five back of AL West leader Texas, and only eight games are left.

September 20, 2011|By Kevin Baxter

Reporting from Toronto — Every B-grade adventure movie has a scene in which the intrepid hero, finding himself in a fix, comes up with an escape plan that has only a slim chance of succeeding.

That's where the Angels find themselves now. Despite Tuesday's easy 10-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Angels remain five games back of victorious Texas in the American League West with eight games left to play.

In the wild-card race the Angels climbed to within 3½ games of the lead. But though Boston and Tampa Bay both lost a game, they moved a day closer to the end of the season.

As a result the Rangers' magic number — the combination of Texas wins and Angels losses — to clinch the division title is four. In the wild-card chase, the magic number separating the Angels from elimination is five.

In the Angels' clubhouse, however, hope remains.

"We still have a plan," outfielder Torii Hunter said. "All is not lost. [But] we've got to make it happen. We've got to battle."

Here's Hunter's plan: Win the next five games against Toronto and Oakland and hope Texas loses at least twice. That would set up a three-game season-ending series with the Rangers next week to decide the division title.

And if they don't catch the Rangers, all those wins just might allow them to pass the Red Sox and Rays, both of whom have series remaining with the AL East-leading New York Yankees.

"Every win from now on, every game, is going to be crucial for us," said right-hander Joel Pineiro, who won Tuesday for just the second time since the All-Star break.

"We're going to need to score some runs. We've got to help our pitching staff," added Vernon Wells, who hit his 23rd homer, doubled and drove in two runs. "If we can go on a run and score for them, we give ourselves a fighting chance."

The Angels showed plenty of fight Tuesday, sending eight men to the plate in both the third and fourth innings while scoring eight times to break the game open.

It was the second time in five days that the Angels scored at least 10 runs while collecting 15 hits, and they won both. In the other three games, they combined for seven runs and they lost all three.

"Our offense can be the difference," Wells said. "Our pitching is still the best thing going on this team. But at this point offense can be the difference by supporting them."

The supporting case was large this time with the top six hitters in the lineup getting multiple hits. Mark Trumbo had two of those, a run-scoring single and a three-run home run, his team-leading 29th homer of the year. Hunter had two hits and scored twice, raising his average to .337 since Aug. 1, while Alberto Callaspo was three for four with two doubles and two RBIs. Callaspo, who also made some sensational defensive plays at third base, is hitting .381 on the Angels' final trip of the season.

The final trip of the regular season, that is. Because if Hunter's plan works, the Angels' first playoff game probably would be on the road.

"We've still got a chance to do it," Hunter said. "We've got to battle.

"Baseball is such a crazy game."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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