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Mike Scioscia takes this one Angels game as one game at a time

T.J. SIMERS

Angels manager Scioscia explains his approach as 'you need to bring a certain level of play in every game,' but just can't admit a game against the Texas Rangers means more.

July 22, 2012|T.J. Simers

Crazy me, I come to Angel Stadium on Sunday, and I don't ordinarily work Sundays, but I'm thinking this is a big game against the Texas Rangers.

I figure the Angels must feel the same way because they charge their fans more for games like this. They call it "dynamic pricing." Monday night's game with the Royals is not so dynamic.

Charging more, the Angels not only have a national anthem singer but also TV star Marlee Matlin to sign the anthem.

They have also brought out the curvaceous Miss Supercross, Dianna Dahlgren, to stand on the mound as part of first-pitch ceremonies to help wipe out the stinking memory of Ervin Santana, who stood there a day earlier.

But when I ask Manager Mike Scioscia whether he considers this a big game like everyone else, he goes Dr. Phil on me.

"From your heart, dig down deep, if you really care I'll answer it,'' says Scioscia.

"I really care because I have one more column to write before I go on vacation again," I tell him.

I figure Scioscia will say anything just to send me on my vacation, but instead he asks, "That's the reason why?"

"That's totally the reason," I say, because my life isn't going to change one way or the other whether Scioscia thinks it's a big game — unless I don't have his ramblings to complete a column.

"If you really care deep down inside and you say you really care," says Scioscia, and I'm guessing Mike Napoli never gave Scioscia the answer he was looking for.

"I really, really care," I tell him, and keep in mind this is a group interview with all reporters here for the game and he won't give up.

"I don't believe you," he says.

I'm thinking, "What's going to happen when I start to ask the really tough questions, like how does a team with as much talent as the Angels find itself running neck and neck with Oakland?"

"So you're declining to answer my question"' whether this is a big game? I say with amusement.

"I just don't think you really care," Scioscia says, and every time I see him call a player to his office and close the door, I feel sorry for the player.

"Would I rather be home, yes," I tell Scioscia, and apparently I'm not alone given the number of empty seats for the Rangers. Dynamic pricing, I guess.

"It's a game on the schedule and you need to bring a certain level of play in every game," Scioscia says finally. He can't just admit this is a big game?

"It's the only game you have on the schedule so in that regard it's a big game," he says. Maybe you understand now why I take so many vacations.

Looking at the Dodgers' roster, I don't see how they win; looking at the Angels' roster I don't see how they lose.

But I think there's a hint in the way the Angels play out a season. Scioscia maintains every game means the same as the next, when a loss to Texas will be so much more damaging than a loss to Kansas City.

Doesn't the manager lose credibility when not admitting the obvious?

"I think you are confusing, probably because of your lack of experience, with saying every game is the same as we're being nonchalant," he says. From experience, I know a putdown when I hear it.

"I think you've made some very, very inaccurate assumptions about how we go about things because you're never here," Scioscia says.

I notice Angry Arte isn't here, and they tell me he hasn't been here for the whole Texas series or much of the season. I wonder whether Scioscia is discounting everything Angry Arte has to say because he's never here.

If the Angels don't make the playoffs for a third straight year, I suspect Angry Arte will have lots to say.

"The theory is, you play a spring training game, a regular season game, play a pennant race game and a playoff game as a baseball game," says Scioscia, and he really talks like that.

"If you do things to win a game and do them in spring training, there's no reason why you wouldn't do them today."

Amen. But it doesn't happen that way. Human nature takes over and teams play down to their competition at times, while almost everyone raises their game for the playoffs.

"Isn't this a bigger game than tomorrow night's game with Kansas City?" I ask.

"A win is a win,"' he says, even though a loss to Texas will be a two-game swing in the standings.

But then Scioscia will tell you he pays no attention to the standings, no series bigger than the next, and the Angels have been playing like it. They win tonight and they are 9-9 in July with more talent on their roster than maybe all teams combined in the Dodgers' division.

"I don't agree with your assertion we should start going out there and playing tight," says Scioscia, inventing the assertion.

"You want guys to play free," he adds, which sounds so strange coming from a control freak. "You don't want guys to play with the burden of — if I miss this play we lose a big game."

So I guess it's a secret the Angels are playing a big game. The heat off, Albert Pujols hits rifle shots for a double and home run, Bobby Wilson adds a double and home run, Mike Trout gets two hits and Dan Haren comes off the disabled list to stifle the Rangers' attack.

A win is a win, and as long as Scioscia can keep the Angels from knowing they are in a big game, maybe they do make the playoffs.

Then it will be fun to see how Scioscia downplays those games.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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