Angels right fielder Torii Hunter, right, is congratulated by teammate… (Mike Cassese / Reuters )
Reporting from Toronto — There are two ways to look at the Angels' season as they stumble toward the finish line, battling to stay relevant with a week left on the schedule.
On one hand, you could argue that the team let a possible playoff berth slip away. After beating the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia on Sept. 10, they were 1 ½ games back of the division-leading Texas Rangers with 17 games left to play — only four of those against teams with winning records.
Then they lost five of the next nine and the deficit grew to five games, the largest it's been in a month.
Plus the Angels are just 26-25 against the American League West. The Rangers are 17 games above .500 in the division. Adjust those numbers just a little and the Angels are in first place.
On the other hand, the Angels may be lucky to be where they are. For all their stellar pitching, they have a losing record in extra innings and in one-run games and are just a game over .500 on the road. Take away a mid-summer spurt that saw them win 33 of 49 games, and the Dodgers have a better winning percentage.
Either way, it wasn't an argument Angels Manager Mike Scioscia was interested in having Tuesday.
"There's still a challenge in front of us and that's what we're focusing on," he said. "We're not looking at the hows, the whys right now. We're going to keep moving forward.
"We're looking at what we have to do today."
Outfielder Torii Hunter was in a reflective mood, though.
"I think we definitely … accomplished more than we expected," he said.
Hunter pointed to the team's youth. Nineteen Angels have less than two years of big league experience, including first baseman Mark Trumbo and closer Jordan Walden. Trumbo leads the team in home runs and runs batted in and Walden made the All-Star team.
"We didn't expect that," Hunter said. "A rookie and you all put all the weight of the world on him to hit for power. We had a closer who was a rookie. You put the weight of the world on him to close out games.
"You look at it now, we definitely did more than we expected. We've done a great job so far."
Good timing or too late?
Joel Pineiro's win Tuesday wasn't just his second in three starts, it was also his second since the All-Star break. But both have come as the Angels are battling to stay in the playoff race.
Pineiro figures to get one more start Sunday against Oakland and if he wins that, the right-hander says it will be a good way to end an otherwise frustrating season.
"That would be huge," said Pineiro (7-7). "Not just for the team but for myself. You end up on a good note.
"Last year was injury. This year is … just not good pitching. No excuse. It's been a tough year for me."
Peter Bourjos snapped an 0-for-17 slump with three straight hits Tuesday. He also scored twice. … Erick Aybar stole home standing up on a busted squeeze play in the fourth inning, making him the first Angel to swipe home on a straight steal in more than two seasons. And with a double and walk, Aybar has reached base in 32 consecutive games.