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Angels beat Rangers to lock up playoff spot

9/27/2002

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Now, the Anaheim Angels can celebrate.

After 16 years and a four-game losing streak that kept putting
off the party, the Angels finally clinched a playoff berth with a
10-5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

''We would have taken it anyway, but to have an opportunity to
get to do this right here, it's pretty special,'' said center
fielder Darin Erstad, who was doused in champagne and beer just
like everyone else in the Anaheim clubhouse.

Since their last postseason appearance in 1986, the closest the
Angels got to the playoffs was when they finished a game behind
Seattle in 1995, when Garett Anderson and Troy Percival were
rookies.

''I had a glimpse of it my first year, but that has been a sour
note in my career until now,'' Anderson said. ''I was so close,
then the last six or seven years I got a rude awakening of how hard
it is to really get to the postseason. I'm enjoying this.''

With the score 2-2 in the fifth, outfielder Tim Salmon
hit a run-scoring infield single and Anderson added a three-run homer off
Colby Lewis (1-3).

Salmon and Scott Spiezio each hit a two-run homer in the
seventh.

Rookie John Lackey (9-4) allowed three runs and seven hits in
five-plus innings. He left after giving up consecutive singles to
start the sixth.

Anaheim, which eliminated Seattle with the victory, will open
the postseason as the AL wild card Tuesday in New York against the
Yankees. Oakland and Minnesota have also clinched AL playoff
berths.

The Angels, who had lost four in a row and seven of nine,
clinched on the road for the first time. The team also went to the
playoffs in 1979 and 1982 but has never won a postseason series.

While Anaheim struggled the past week, the Mariners remained in
contention with consecutive come-from-behind victories over the A's.

''It's been a long grind. It's been emotionally draining and
physically draining,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ''We got
over that little rough spot of maybe guys were trying to bull
themselves through that last game to get at least to the
playoffs.''

Since Anaheim last played in the postseason, 25 of the other 29
major league teams had been to the playoffs.

After the first three weeks this season, the Angels were 6-14 -- their worst 20-game start ever -- and 10½ games behind Seattle in
the AL West. Now they have a club-record 97 victories, including 45 on
the road.

Todd Greene's ninth homer gave Texas a 1-0 lead in the second,
but Anaheim scored a pair of unearned runs in the fourth after an
error by left fielder Mike Lamb. Brad Fullmer had a run-scoring double and
Troy Glaus' groundout brought home another run.

The lead lasted just one pitch in the bottom half, as Herbert
Perry homered. But the Angels charged right back in front in the
fifth.

''I felt like I threw the ball well, and I thought the pitch to
Anderson was pretty good,'' Lewis said. ''When he hit it, I didn't
think it was going to carry. That was pretty much the turning
point.''

Texas rookie Hank Blalock had a run-scoring single in the sixth that
made it 6-3. Lamb opened the ninth with a homer off Percival, who
closed out the clincher nine days after his last appearance.

''I had the worst possible scenario. I had rust and too much
adrenaline, but it worked out,'' Percival said. ''I have a lot of
ghosts coming out right now -- Gary DiSarcina, Chuck Finley, guys
who put a lot of heart in this uniform and didn't get a chance to
do it here.

''This makes everything I've ever lived for worth it,'' he said.
''It's the best feeling I've ever had.''

Game notes
Before Salmon's fifth-inning hit, the top three batters in
Anaheim's lineup -- David Eckstein, Erstad and Salmon -- were a
combined 0-for-29 in the series. ... Rangers right fielder Todd Hollandsworth
left after fouling a ball off his knee in the second inning. He has
a bruised knee and is day to day. ... Anderson, who has played his
entire eight-year career with the Angels, tied a career high with
his 194th hit. ... Salmon has 30 homers against Texas, including 16
at The Ballpark in Arlington, the most by an opposing player. ...
Alex Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. ... Anaheim is
46-27 since the All-Star break.