While several teams are still in the hunt for a playoff berth, the Los Angeles Angels can rest easy


The Angels became the first major league team to clinch a playoff berth with an 8-1 win over Seattle on Monday.

“We have a long way to go,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “I think these guys know the bigger prize that we need to keep our eyes on.”

It is the first time the Angels have reached the postseason since 2009.

Through Monday’s game, the Angels owned the best record in baseball at 94-56, 10 1/2 games ahead of the Oakland A’s, who sat atop the AL West for much of this season. Their magic number to clinch the division title was reduced to three games.

The Angels won Monday for the 11th time in their last 12 games. Albert Pujols hit a three-run double and David Freese and Brennan Boesch hit homers.

But Los Angeles received a scare when Pujols slowed down while running the bases during his triple, grabbing his left leg. Pujols suffered a hamstring cramp.

Pujols downplayed the playoff-clinching victory.

“When the time comes, I’m pretty sure everybody is going to celebrate,” Pujols said. “Just because you earn a spot, that doesn’t mean you’ve done your job.”

Matt Shoemaker (16-4) got the win on Monday, allowing just five hits and a run into the eighth inning. He’s been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball since the last week in July, winning nine games in that span.

The Angels have been a scoring machine this season. They lead the majors in runs scored with 737 (through Mon.), while the powerful Detroit Tigers have scored a second-most 711. They are tied for third in baseball with the Los Angeles Dodgers in batting with a .263 average and rank fourth with a .326 on-base percentage.

Going into Tuesday’s game, Mike Trout led the team with 34 home runs and topped the majors with 107 RBIs. Jered Weaver led the AL with 17 wins and Garrett Richards (13-4) was among the best in the league with a 2.61 ERA.

The Angels were 37-32 on June 16, 4 1/2 games behind the A’s, but went 20-5 to close out the first half. In the last game before the All-Star break, a 10-7 win over Texas, Trout, Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined to go 7-for-13 with six runs driven in.

“When those three guys in the middle are doing what they can do, you’re going to be able to put some games away,” Scioscia said. “It has to be more than them, and I think it is.”

It was more. Every Angels starter had at least one hit in the game.

“That’s a very relentless ballclub,” said then Rangers manager Ron Washington. “Every time you make a mistake, they make you pay.”

Although the Angels hit a bump in the road by losing three of four to the Dodgers in August, they bounced back to go 27-9 since.

On Saturday, the Angels won their 10th straight game, beating Houston 5-2, coming within one game of the franchise record for consecutive wins set in 1964. Their streak ended on Sunday.

“The offense is clicking and the pitching staff’s been unbelievable,” Trout said.

The Angels have been without Hamilton recently, who has missed 10 straight games due to an injured right shoulder. Once he returns, the Angels will be even more lethal, just in time for the playoffs.

O’s move on without Davis: The Baltimore Orioles will be without Chris Davis for the remainder of the regular season and eight games into the playoffs, should they get that far. Davis was suspended for 25 games without pay after testing positive for amphetamines.

Davis apologized in a statement on Friday.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans,” Davis said. “I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

Davis, who led the major leagues with 53 home runs and 138 RBIs in 2013, has 26 homers and 72 RBIs this season despite hitting just .196 with 173 strikeouts in 450 at-bats.

Quotable: “They have the right to boo, but when an umpire gets caught up in that and starts trying to look for extra things – just umpire the game. By no means am I directing anything at any fans,” – Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was ejected by umpire Joe West on Sunday during Philadelphia’s 5-4 loss to Miami. Papelbon grabbed his crotch as he walked to the dugout after allowing four runs in the ninth inning. He also argued with West and first base umpire Marty Foster and threw a cup of liquid onto the field. Fans booed Papelbon for his performance. Papelbon has been suspended for seven games.

Copyright © 2014 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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