Perhaps the strangest thing about the Angels' 2006 season is that it isn't over yet. Whether it continues that way will depend a lot on how the team performs this week in seven straight home games against division rivals Texas and Oakland.
The Rangers and A's have led the Angels throughout this season and seemed on the verge of leaving Los Angeles behind as early as May, when the Angels lost 17 games in the month. Sure, they were playing the aristocrats of baseball—Detroit, Toronto, Chicago White Sox, as well as Texas and Oakland—but they followed that with a lackluster 12-14 record in June, when they were matched against such dregs as Tampa Bay, Kansas City and the miserable, miserable National League West (miserable). Though the team was getting consistent pitching, it was doomed by weak hitting and surprisingly weak fielding. Then, after a mid July surge—mmmmm, surge—highlighted by an eight-game winning streak in which the offense averaged better than six runs per game, the Angels climbed to within a half-game of first. (They then promptly returned to old habits and committed four errors in a loss to Kansas City.)
The Angels won't get another shot at the Rangers and A's until September, when they play 14 of their final 16 games against them. This week will go a long way toward determining whether those games will mean anything.
The Los Angeles Angels play the Oakland A's July 31-Aug. 2 and Texas Rangers Aug. 3-6 at Angel Stadium, 200 Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, (714) 663-9000; www.Angelsbaseball.com. Check website for times and ticket prices.