Los Angeles Angels can start thinking about the postseason after last night's 8-1 victory over Texas Rangers saw them take a nine-game lead in the American League West division and they are just nine games away from clinching the title outright.
Yesterday’s clash at Globe Life Park pitted the most in form side against the most out of form and there was only ever going to be one result: a hammering.
Matt Shoemaker (15-4) tied up the hapless Rangers batting line-up as he took the win decision with a 6 2/3 innings outing, conceding just one run off seven hits.
Although Shoemaker was supported by a shower of runs from the Angels at-bats, credit remained with the rookie pitcher who only joined the Angels pitching rotation in mid-May.
The 27-year-old has been one of the revelations of 2014 after spending the past two seasons in the Triple-A leagues. The starting pitcher has a 3.16 ERA over 128 innings and has earned himself a starting role for the Angels alongside the experience trio of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago.
Dealing with injuries
Despite losing their star pitcher Garrett Richards to knee surgery in late August, the Angel’s pitching rotation has banded together and made up for the loss of such a key player.
Accoring to MLB statistics, since Richards has been injured the four Angels starters – Shoemaker, Weaver, Wilson and Santiago – have leaked three earned runs or fewer in 15 of their 17 starts.
The sum of this has seen the Halos shoot to the top of the AL West, leaving the misfiring Oakland Athletics far behind.
More importantly, the Angels are peaking at the right time.
With 90 wins looking like the lucky number for divisional titles, the Halos have 17 games to reach a magical three-figure win count. The last time they managed that feat they went on to win the World Series in 2002.
But staying in September for the moment, the Angels have reached the playoffs every time they have ticked over 90 wins since 1989, when a 91-71 season record was only enough to give them third place in the highly competitive AL West.
With the postseason effectively secured, Los Angeles Angels will want to maintain their momentum into the closing stages.
The regular season run-in is relatively easy going, with home series against the Rangers and Houston Astros, who both have little to play for.
Sandwiched between those series is a four-game home series against Seattle Mariners who are right in the mix-up for a Wild Card spot.
The Angels finish the regular season on the road with trips to Oakland and Seattle but the title should be theirs by the time they arrive at the Coliseum on September 22.