ANAHEIM -- Once again, the Angels failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity. This was the last one they'll get.
The Angels were eliminated from the playoff race with a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium on Monday night. The Boston Red Sox loss at Baltimore earlier in the evening kept the Angels alive in the wild-card race, but only for a matter of hours.
Pitching progress. One of the reasons the Angels have lost the season series to the Rangers is that their strength (starting pitching) hasn't worked well against Texas' strength (hitting). Dan Haren went into this game 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA against the Rangers in four starts this year. His final start of 2011 was a step forward. Haren allowed three earned runs in eight innings. He couldn't quite reach his 17th victory, which would have been a career best.
Fresh Trout. One of the subplots of the end of the season is how Mike Trout handles failure. The team's top prospect hasn't been playing lately, because he has been stuck in a bad slump (1-for-22). He said a couple of days ago that he was getting himself out at times by expanding his strike zone. Trout tightened it up, drew a walk in the first inning, and fueled the Angels' sixth-inning rally with an RBI single. Good day for the 20-year old.
Hungry Hunter. Didn't it seem, at times, as if Torii Hunter was the only guy who cared during this 4-7 stretch that has cost the Angels a playoff berth? Perhaps that's because he has been the only consistent producer in the lineup. Hunter had only one hit, but it was the double that sparked the Angels' only rally of the night. Unfortunately for the Angels, this race ended with Hunter in the on-deck circle.
Pop-up king.Vernon Wells entered Monday with the worst on-base percentage of any qualified batter in the major leagues. It only got worse from the .250 it started the day at, because Wells hit four more pop-ups. The sight of him swinging at a high fastball and skying the ball to the shortstop is one of the enduring Angels images of 2011.
Rush effort. Jeff Mathis plays for one reason only. It's certainly not for his .174 batting average. Mathis is a very good catcher, but he fielded Elvis Andrus' bunt attempt and had little shot to get him at first. He threw anyway, wildly, and it wound up costing the Angels an unearned run in the first inning. Not the way you want to start a desperation game.
Rusty Branyan. If you're going to keep Russell Branyan around as your late-inning power guy off the bench, don't you need to give him enough at-bats to stay sharp? Branyan came up in the ninth inning for his fourth at-bat this month. He took a called third strike and went back to the bench.