MLB-best Angels close out regular season with team-best 100th win

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Clinching the AL West title 2 1/2 weeks ago gave the Los Angeles Angels plenty of time to add some eye-popping numbers to their season statistics.

As in 21 (their margin over second-place Texas) and 100 (club-record victories).

Joe Saunders struck out a career-high nine in six sharp innings and Mike Napoli homered Sunday in a 7-0 win against the Rangers to end the regular season.

"It's a nice milestone," manager Mike Scioscia said of the team's 100th win. "There are things we accomplished that were more important, but as hard as these guys worked and as much as these guys have put out since day one of spring training, it's a nice round number."

The Angels (100-62) take baseball's best record into the first round of the playoffs against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox beginning Wednesday in Anaheim.

"As long as Manny [Ramirez] isn't there, we got an OK chance," Torii Hunter said.

Scioscia said the Angels will go with a three-man rotation of right-hander John Lackey, right-hander Ervin Santana and lefty Saunders for the first round. Lackey would pitch Game 4 if necessary, with Santana going in Game 5.

The Angels became the first major league team since the 2005 St. Louis Cardinals to reach 100 wins, and the first AL team to do so since the 2004 New York Yankees.

"That's special," Napoli said. "It's momentum going into the playoffs."

Los Angeles won the AL West by 21 games over the Rangers, becoming the first team to win a division by 20 or more games since the 1999 Cleveland Indians, who finished 21 1/2 games ahead of Chicago that year.

"Folks are going to have a tough time beating them in the postseason," Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton said. "The Angels can pitch, they hit, they play defense, and they do it all every game."

Saunders (17-7) tuned up for his scheduled Game 3 start against the Red Sox by allowing two hits, striking out a career-high nine and walking none. The All-Star pitcher improved to 3-0 in his last four starts.

"I tried to keep myself under control and get ahead of guys using my curveball for strikes," he said. "It's a confidence booster."

Saunders missed his scheduled start Sept. 23 at Seattle because of a kidney stone, which gave his arm time off but hurt the rest of him.

"That was the worst experience of my life," he said. "I wish that on nobody."

Neither does Scioscia, but he acknowledged that Saunders' performance benefited.

"It's probably the best stuff we've seen out of Joe in his last seven or eight starts, so that's exciting," Scioscia said. "The layoff definitely helped him. I don't think we'd recommend anyone getting kidney stones, but the residual effect was that he was a little fresher and a little stronger, and he showed it."

Napoli went 3-for-3 and drove in four runs. He gave the Angels a 2-0 lead with a two-out RBI double in the second and his 20th homer off Kevin Millwood (9-10) in the fifth.

The Angels added three runs with two outs in the sixth. Juan Rivera scored on an RBI single by Gary Matthews Jr., who advanced to second when catcher Gerald Laird dropped the throw from right field to the plate.

Napoli, the Angels' top hitter with a .453 average this month, followed with a two-run RBI double, driving in four of their five runs in a game for the second time in September.

"I'm just trying to keep everything the same and go about it the same way," he said. "You can't ask for anything more. I feel good when I'm in there and do whatever the situation calls for."

Millwood allowed nine hits and five runs in six innings, struck out six and walked one as Texas got shut out for the first time since a 7-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 15. The right-hander lost his last three decisions.

The Rangers won four of their last five games to end the season, having taken two of three from the Angels.

Game notes
Angels RHP Justin Speier (2-8) was left off the playoff roster. His losses tied a career high. ... The Rangers' one double brought their major league record season total to 376. ... Angels RHP Darren O'Day underwent an MRI exam on his right shoulder Friday, which showed a torn right labrum. ... Hamilton won the AL RBI title with 130. ... The Angels notched their 50th home win of the season, joining those same Cardinals as the last teams to log 50 wins at home and on the road in the same season. ... The crowd of 43,761 was the Angels' 29th sellout and their regular-season attendance of 3,336,744 was fifth-best in club history.