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Things are getting wilder for the Angels

With a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays, Angels are only 2 1/2 games behind the slumping Red Sox in the wild-card race.

September 21, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos, right, is congratulated by teammate Jeff Mathis after hitting a solo home run during the fifth inning of the Angels' 7-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos, right, is congratulated by teammate… (Tom Szczerbowski / U.S.…)

Reporting from Toronto — A crowd of reporters gathered around Peter Bourjos' locker in the Angels' clubhouse Wednesday. But before he would answer any questions he wanted to ask one.

"Boston ended up losing, right?" he said.

Indeed it had. And with the Angels beating Toronto, 7-2, behind three hits and three runs from Bourjos, the wild-card race had tightened considerably.

The Red Sox' once-comfortable lead is down to 2½ games over the Angels and Tampa Bay Rays, who each have seven games left to play. So while the American League West race may be all but over — Texas won for the eighth time in nine games Wednesday, beating Oakland to retain its five-game lead — the Angels are still closer to a playoff berth than they've been in 10 days.

"It's nice to kind of forget about the Rangers," Bourjos said. "Obviously the wild card is going to be our best bet right now. In two days, you never know. Things change so quickly.

"We've just got to go out and try to win every game."

The Angels have won 12 of 19 games in September, but they really owe their climb in the wild-card standings to the Red Sox's collapse.

Beginning play Sept. 2, Boston led the AL East and was nine games ahead of Tampa Bay and 9½ in front of the Angels in the wild-card standings. The Red Sox have gone 5-15 since.

"Everyone says they don't pay attention. We know how far [behind] we are in both races," pitcher Dan Haren said. "We've got a lot of ground to make up in a short amount of time. Teams have to lose ahead of us.

"But … if we lose games we're in trouble."

Haren kept the Angels out of trouble for eight innings Wednesday, limiting the Blue Jays to Eric Thames' home run leading off the sixth. Thames gave the right-hander one more scare when he lined Haren's last pitch back to the mound, striking the pitcher on his left wrist.

The ball bounced to second baseman Maicer Izturis, who threw to first for the out as Haren writhed near the mound in obvious pain. He was examined by doctors at the stadium and a Fluoroscan — sort of a high-tech X-ray — read normal.

"It definitely hurt," said Haren, who matched a career high with his 16th win. "He smoked it. He hit it so hard I didn't even see the ball."

The Angels had given Haren more than enough breathing room by then. Bourjos started the scoring in the third by tripling, then scored on Izturis' single. That triple, his 10th, made Bourjos the first player in franchise history with 25 doubles, 20 stolen bases and double-digit totals for home runs and triples in the same season.

He made it 2-0 two innings later with his 12th home run of the season. Vernon Wells then added a two-run single and a two-run homer, joining four other players with at least two hits.

"The offensive is really clicking," Bourjos said. "It's a good thing we don't have any more off days. Keep the momentum going.

"As long as we keep clicking, I think we'll be in good shape."

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