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Mike Napoli bashes a big dent in Angels' playoff hopes

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Ex-Angel Mike Napoli haunts old team with two homers, six RBIs in Texas' 8-7 win, and doubleheader split leaves Angels three games out of wild card with three to play.

October 01, 2012|By Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Angels shuffled off the field, their season over every way but mathematically, surrounded by the sights and sounds of joy. The Texas Rangers did not dance in the faces of the Angels, but the public address announcer shouted deliriously into the night air.

"With tonight's win, the Texas Rangers have clinched a spot in postseason play," he said.

The crowd went nuts. Mike Napoli appeared on the video board, the slayer of the Angels wearing a contented smile, and the crowd went nuts again.

In the Angels' clubhouse, where silence might have been in order, there was a high-pitched squeal, and a ripple of laughter. The rookies had found their dress-up outfits in their lockers, and outfielder Kole Calhoun was trying on his bonnet and bib, and trying out his rattle and pacifier.

It was a coincidence that this was the annual rookie hazing night, but the laughter seemed odd. After a raucous ninth-inning comeback capped a 5-4 victory in the first game of a doubleheader, the Angels blew a four-run lead en route to an 8-7 loss in the second game.

Yet, a little laughter might be the way to cope with the practically insurmountable hurdles to a playoff berth. The Angels must win their final three games, and the Oakland Athletics must lose their final three games.

Then, and only then, could the Angels force a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot.

That means the Angels need seven games to go their way — and maybe eight, depending on the Tampa Bay Rays, also three games behind Oakland for the second AL wild-card spot.

Not much chance of that.

"It's not a good chance," Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo said, "but it is a chance."

Napoli drove the ceremonial stake into the heart of his former team, another day of disaster for the Vernon Wells trade. Napoli did in the Angels in the nightcap with two home runs, a double and six runs batted in.

"He plays with a vengeance," the Angels' Torii Hunter said. "I hate that he's doing it, but that's how you really make a statement."

In 17 games against the Angels this season, Napoli hit six home runs and drove in 16 runs. He is batting .442 against the Angels, .197 against everyone else.

"Mike has power, but he's hitting .220," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Against us, obviously, those numbers are off the charts."

The Angels' loss enabled the Rangers, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles to clinch playoff spots. The A's clinched at least a tie.

It didn't have to be this way. The Angels scored four runs in the first inning of the second game, but Ervin Santana gave it all back in a hurry, in what might well have been the final start of his Angels career.

He gave up one run in the first, two in the second and three in the third, on Napoli's second homer. He gave up three home runs Sunday and 39 this season, the most in the majors.

The Rangers could enjoy champagne on Monday, if they clinch the division title. For the Angels, this is three consecutive years without one.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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