ANAHEIM -- With nine regular-season games left and none against those directly ahead of them, the Angels -- 2 1/2 back of the second American League Wild Card spot heading into Monday's off-day -- have very little within their control. Given that, perhaps there's a part of this team that can't be too disappointed if it finishes out the season strong but still falls short of the playoffs because the overachieving Orioles and A's simply didn't lose enough.
Not Jered Weaver.
"There would definitely still be disappointment," the Angels' ace said. "You look back at that first month of the season, it kind of hurt us. We got on a good run after that, but I think that first month definitely hurt us, getting off to that slow start. We're trying to play catch-up."
They've been playing that cruel game all year.
In fact, if the Angels are to make a late charge into the postseason, they'd do it on the heels of their third season-saving run.
They needed one, as Weaver mentioned, after the mystifying slump of Albert Pujols and the absence of Mike Trout led to a stalled offense, causing a 6-14 record that was temporarily fixed by a two-month stretch of great baseball.
They needed another one shortly after the All-Star break, when head-scratching struggles up and down the pitching staff led to a 14-22 start. The Angels then notched 15 wins in an 18-game stretch, putting them one game back of the final playoff spot as recently as Sept. 10.
Then -- that's right -- they stumbled once again, dropping six of 10 to put their season in grave danger and ramp up reports that manager Mike Scioscia's job, and perhaps even general manager Jerry Dipoto's, was in serious danger.
And now, with a three-game sweep of the first-place White Sox and a public assurance from owner Arte Moreno that Scioscia and Dipoto are indeed safe, this roller-coaster season is on its way up again.
"No matter what," veteran outfielder Torii Hunter said, "we're going to fight. I can guarantee you that -- this team will fight 'til the end."
The Angels' chances of making the playoffs remain a long shot.
But more than a week of baseball is promised to them, and seven of the A's final 10 games are against the world-beating Rangers. So, hope is still there to cling to.
The Angels host the Mariners for three games beginning Tuesday, then play three in Texas over the weekend before finishing off the regular season with three in Seattle. If it comes down to the wire, Weaver would be lined up to pitch the regular-season finale against the Mariners on Oct. 3, and if they get in, Zack Greinke can pitch the Wild Card game.
But, of course, the Angels have to get there first.
"If we play the way that we did this series [against the White Sox], I think we're capable of just about anything," outfielder Mark Trumbo said of his 84-69 club. "We still need to do what we need to do, but we couldn't ask for a better time to make one final push."
The Angels haven't been short on impressive individual seasons.
Pujols (.286 batting average, 30 homers, 101 RBIs) is having a pretty standard year despite the first-month slump. Trout (.323 batting average, 28 homers, 46 stolen bases, 10.4 wins above replacement) is having a season for the ages. Weaver (19 wins, 2.74 ERA, 1.00 walks plus hits per inning pitched) is still very much in the AL Cy Young Award discussion. Hunter (.304 batting average, 15 homers, 84 RBIs) is defying age. And Kendrys Morales (.277 batting average, 22 homers, .801 on-base plus slugging percentage) is doing more than many would've imagined after missing nearly two years with two ankle surgeries.
It's those contributions -- and others, like Ernesto Frieri's emergence, Trumbo's first-half power, Erick Aybar's second-half surge, Howie Kendrick's quiet production -- that make you wonder how the Angels are even in this predicament.
"You're always going to have seasons where you look back and try to figure out where the shortcomings were or weren't," Dipoto said, "but the way I'm playing this one is there's still a couple of weeks left in the season, we're right in the thick of this thing, we have all the talent in the world, and I feel like we still have a very good chance. And I know every guy down there in that clubhouse believes the same thing. We're going to keep on battling and doing the things we can do and control the things we can control.
"Baseball is a funny game the way it works out sometimes. I don't want to take away from the stories of the Orioles and the A's because they've had great seasons, but all I can say is we have a couple weeks left, we believe in the talent on the field, and I know the talent on the field believes in itself."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.