ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- The AL West champion Los Angeles Angels are limping toward the playoffs.
Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. had to leave because of an irritated left knee after a running catch in the first, Vladimir Guerrero got plunked on the forearm by a pitch and the Angels suffered their most lopsided loss of the season -- a 16-2 setback that completed a three-game sweep by last-place Texas."Playoffs are an entity by themselves, but you feel so much better about yourself if you get some momentum at the end of the regular season," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We played terrific baseball for a long, long time. There were a few dry spots across the season -- and this series is definitely one of them."The Rangers had all the fun in their final home series, with Michael Young reaching 200 hits for the fifth consecutive season and Sammy Sosa hitting one of their five home runs in the finale.Los Angeles clinched the division before getting to Texas but is still in the race for the American League's top record and home-field advantage through the playoffs.The Angels, who have three games left in Oakland this weekend,
stayed at 92 victories. That is two fewer than Boston, which beat
Oakland 11-6 on Wednesday and still has four games left. Cleveland
split a doubleheader at Seattle and also has 94 wins.Now they have questions about Matthews, who irritated the tendinitis in his left knee when he made a running catch to end the first inning."It's pretty painful right now. But it feels a hair better," Matthews said. "I'm fairly concerned, but it's still attached to the bone so there's not any structural damage. So it's really irritated and a little swollen. ... I'm hoping I'll be available a week from now."Guerrero, in the Angels lineup for the first time in the series, initially stayed in the game after being hit by the pitch. But he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh when Los Angeles trailed 11-2."Vlad's OK, just a little bruise on the lower forearm," Scioscia said.Guerrero has been limited to designated hitter his past 15 starts since Sept. 4 because of an inflamed right triceps that make throws from the outfield difficult.Nelson Cruz, Gerald Laird, Travis Metcalf and Hank Blalock also homered for the Rangers. Blalock's three-run homer came in the seventh inning when he pinch-hit for Sosa, right after Young joined Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki as the only players since 1940 with five consecutive 200-hit seasons.Young's 200th hit was his second RBI single of the game.Boggs and Suzuki both had seven straight 200-hit seasons, including this year for Suzuki. Young, the All-Star shortstop, matched Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer (1933-37) for the most consecutive 200-hit seasons by a middle infielder."I'm definitely humbled by it. I recognize the company I'm with and it means a lot," Young said.Sosa hit a two-run homer in the first off Joe Saunders (8-5) that made it 3-0. The 412-foot shot to right-center, in what might have been his last home game for the Rangers, was Sosa's 21st this season -- and No. 609 in his career. He also leads the team with 92 RBIs, even though he has started only 18 of the past 53 games."I'm so proud because so many people doubted me at the beginning," Sosa said. "Now I've convinced them that I'm still here, I still can play, I can still do the job."When Sosa returned to the Rangers after a year out of baseball, the 38-year-old slugger got only a one-year deal. He got a $600,000 base salary and earned another $1.35 million in performance bonuses, reaching the last possible one when he had his 450th plate appearance Wednesday.Sosa plans to play another season, but it isn't clear yet if he'll have a chance to do that in Texas.Luis Mendoza allowed two runs over 4 2/3 innings in his third start this month for Texas, having never pitched above the Double-A level before then.The last batter Mendoza faced was Guerrero, and Mendoza hit him to load the bases after Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis both had sacrifice flies to get the Angels within 6-2. Reliever John Rheinecker (4-3) got out of the jam by striking out Garret Anderson, who also played for the first time in the series.The Angels also skipped the scheduled start of 17-game winner Kelvim Escobar (inflammation in his shoulder) during the series. Scioscia said before Wednesday's game that Escobar would start Saturday in Oakland."We didn't play well. The whole series we didn't do much offensively," Scioscia said. "We didn't get going on the field what we needed to get going. Hopefully, we can get it going this weekend."
Saunders is 1-4 with a 6.69 ERA his past seven starts. ... The start of the game was delayed 31 minutes by rain. ... The Rangers turned their team-record 177th double play in the eighth inning, breaking the record set in 1975. ... The Rangers finished 47-34 at home. ... The Angels have lost a pair of 12-0 games, to the New York Yankees and Detroit before the All-Star break.