Thursday, July 06, 2006

Somehow, after all the offensive droughts, the eight batters slumping at once, and the inconsistent defense, the Angels find themselves a mere four games out of first place, with four games in Oakland against the division pace-setters to close out the first half of the season.

Of course, that scenario means that, as of right now at this moment, we're still in this thing, despite what many others have said and/or predicted. And with a stunning five-game winning streak and a series sweep under our belt, it hasn't been this exciting to be an Angel fan since October 11 of last year.

As our division continues to struggle and keep us competitive, the four-game series in Oakland becomes paramount in importance. Obviously, a sweep either way would be pretty decisive, though the results will likely be more intermediary and muddled than that. I would certainly accept splitting the series and maintaining our four-game deficit going into the break; of course, taking three of four and picking up two games would be even better.

Losing three of four would set us to six games back, which is getting to be on the edge of manageable at this point of the season, I would think; it would return us to that foggy land between contention and out-of-it-ness in which we've been mired for much of the season. Because of that, I think getting at least a split is critical, just to keep us within hailing distance of the Athletics.

Of course, there's another question, one which seems to have been avoided so far. Even if we are able to win this weak division, will we be able to make any noise in the postseason? Well, as our strengths are with the pitching staff, we might be uniquely positioned to make some playoff noise, if only our offense could get it together enough to get us there. But we have seen that this team is capable of some bad play, and though just about every good team will go through tough stretches, ours have been so pervasive and extended over periods this season that I just don't know if this is a team that can win a championship.

But that's no reason to give up, not just yet, at any rate. Earlier this season I advocated seeing where we were at the All Star Break before determining our future course, and luckily the stars have aligned so that our imminent destiny is completely in our players' hands. Take care of business in Oaktown, and the game is afoot.

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