Halos close in on home-field edge
Magic number down to one to secure preferred playoff path
SEATTLE -- The Angels are one win -- or one Rays loss -- away from clinching best record in the American League and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The AL West champions, powered by Vladimir Guerrero's two home runs, shaved their magic number to one with a 6-4 victory over the Mariners on Thursday night at Safeco Field. Earlier, the Rays, with a chance to clinch the AL East title, fell to the Tigers, 7-5, in Detroit.
The Angels (99-60) have big guns John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders aligned to face the Rangers over the weekend at Angel Stadium, starting on Friday night. They are expected to start the first three games of the postseason.
Also within the Angels' grasp, one victory away, is a franchise-record 100 wins. By taking seven of their last eight games on a swing through Oakland, Texas and Seattle, they moved to 99 wins, tying the franchise record set by the 2002 World Series champions.
"Maybe when you're done playing, you'll say, `I was on a 100-win team,'" Angels elder statesman Garret Anderson said. "It's a fun fact. Home-field advantage is more important than winning 100 games."If we won 75 and [the Rays] won 74, and we got home-field advantage because of it, I'd be happy. This is a results-oriented business. Ultimately, in this business, you're judged on how you do in the postseason." Anderson was a featured performer on the 2002 outfit that set the franchise record with 99 wins -- and produced 11 more in the postseason, winning the championship. "The '02 team to the baseball world wasn't a great team, but we played great when it counted," Anderson said. "This is probably the best team I've ever played on. It's a very strong team, top to bottom. There's no weakness. But you get judged in the postseason. It's a double-edged sword."
The Angels are likely to face old nemesis Boston in the AL Division Series, opening in Anaheim either Oct. 1 or Oct. 2. It'll be the Angels' choice which if they earn home-field advantage, but they're not tipping their hand on that yet.
The Red Sox swept an injury-riddled Angels team last year on their way to the World Series title. Boston also knocked out the Angels three straight in the 2004 ALDS.
The Angels finished 50-31 on the road, the best in the Majors by six games over the Phillies.
"We'll keep going," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We need to carry momentum forward. We've talked about our goals. The first one is making the playoffs, and another one is in front of us.
"You're still grinding it out now. As we make that turn and Sunday turns into Monday, the excitement level gets there, the anticipation and anxiety. Guys want to get on the field. Right now we're still in season mode and we'll keep riding it out."
With one win, the Rays, as AL East champions, would face the Central Division champions -- the Twins or White Sox -- in the ALDS opening at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The World Series will open at the home of the AL champion on Oct. 22 by virtue of the AL's triumph in the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays have three games remaining with the Tigers. Tampa Bay holds the tie-breaker with the Angels should they finish with the same number of wins by virtue of claiming the season series, 6-3, from Los Angeles.
The Rays won five of six from the Angels in Florida and are the only AL team to hold the upper hand this season against the Angels. The White Sox and Angels split 10 games.
The Angels are positioned to finish with the best record in the Majors for the first time in franchise history. The Cubs lead the National League with a 96-62 record, 2 1/2 games behind the Angels, after losing to the Mets on Thursday night.
The Angels were the first team in the Majors this season to reach 60, 70 and 90 wins.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.