Sep 21, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Cory Rasmus (46) in the dugout after being pulled in the fifth inning the game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
How quickly 162 games dwindle to one. Spring training brings a glimmer of hope to even the most menial of Major League teams and gives fans delusions that the season is longer than its six-month schedule. Endless summer days. Countless opportunities for an afternoon matinee. More promotional giveaways than will fit in the closet.
Sept. 28 seemed so far away.
The Angels end the regular season with nothing more than a win on the line. For the first time since 2009, it doesn’t symbolize their last game. Los Angeles has locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs ahead of a potential matchups with Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit, and Seattle; the latter looking to back into a wild card berth with a victory and A’s loss.
This is, essentially, Seattle’s playoff game. Sending Felix Hernandez to the mound says as much. The Mariners are one of five teams with a winning record against the AL West champions, have won 11 of 19 meetings. They’ll need a weekend sweep over the Angels for a remote chance at Tuesday’s play-in game.
For the Angels, it’s a final warmup before hosting Thursday’s ALDS opener. They have little invested in Sunday’s finale other than to play spoiler. They’ve guaranteed October baseball in Anaheim for the first time in five years.
More importantly, they granted Angels’ fans at least two more visits to “The Big A.”
Pitching Matchup: Cory Rasmus (3-1, 2.38 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (14-6, 2.18 ERA)
Cory Rasmus isn’t Garrett Richards, but he’s been nearly as effective since taking the injured right-hander’s role in the starting rotation.
Rasmus has given up three hits and one walk over eight shutout innings, garnering no-decisions against Seattle and Texas. He tossed four flawless innings against the Rangers last Sunday in scattering two hits while throwing a season-high 59 pitches. If anything, it served as a showcase for Rasmus’ potential starting role next weekend.
Few Angels’ hurlers have had a better month. Rasmus carries a 2.07 September ERA into his sixth start since being moved into the rotation. He hasn’t yielded more than two runs in a single outing, including tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Mariners.
Hernandez’s last outing wasn’t his strongest. Toronto scored the Cy Young award contender for eight runs- four earned- in 4 2/3 innings last Tuesday. The loss brought Hernandez’s record to 1-3 since Aug. 16.
“King Felix” is 10-13 with a 3.60 ERA in 39 starts against the Halos. He was flawless in a Sept. 18 outing at Angel Stadium, surrendering just three hits while striking out 11.
- Matt Shoemaker expects to throw a bullpen session Sunday morning for the first time since straining a left oblique two weeks ago.
- Mike Trout is batting .383 with two home runs and 11 RBIs against Hernandez.
- Of the Angels’ everyday players, only Trout has a batting average above .300 against the Mariners this season.
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