Having already clinched their fourth AL West title in five years, the Los Angeles Angels are on the verge of another special moment during their successful 2008 season.
Los Angeles (88-57) closed out its series with the New York Yankees on Wednesday afternoon with a 4-2 victory, which combined with second-place Texas’ 8-7 loss at Seattle later in the day, allowed the Angels to become the first team to clinch a division crown in 2008.
The earliest the AL West was clinched before Wednesday came when Oakland did it Sept. 15, 1971.
“There’s no such thing as too soon to clinch,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. “We’ve been going hard to get to this point. It doesn’t matter if we clinch early or late, as long as we clinched.”
The Mariners (57-87) were happy Los Angeles wouldn’t be celebrating at their expense.
“You want to be the team celebrating but not the team they’re celebrating on,” Seattle’s Raul Ibanez said. “I have a lot of respect for that club and what they’ve done.”
Still with the best record in baseball, Los Angeles has 17 games remaining to rest players and set its rotation while trying to nail down home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
“Right now I’m more interested in how we finish up the season and get prepared to play in the playoffs,” team owner Arte Moreno said. “Obviously, you always like to have home-field advantage.”
Rodriguez, meanwhile, pitched a scoreless ninth for his 56th save Wednesday, leaving him one shy of Bobby Thigpen’s major league record set in 1990. The 26-year-old right-hander has recorded five saves in six chances versus Seattle this season.
With Chone Figgins injured, Mark Teixeira ill and Hunter serving the first of a two-game suspension for his role in a bench-clearing scuffle with the Yankees on Monday, Robb Quinlan drove in two runs while Garret Anderson and Vladimir Guerrero each had two hits for the Angels.
“(Winning the division) doesn’t get old,” said Anderson, who went 7-for-12 with two doubles in the Yankees’ series.
Jered Weaver (10-10, 4.42 ERA) is expected to start Thursday for the Angels after missing more than a week after cutting his fingers in a dugout accident on Sept. 2.
“I’ll throw everything,” Weaver said. “It just depends on how sharp everything is.”
In his most recent start, Weaver allowed three runs and five hits in five innings, but didn’t factor in the decision of a 4-3 win over Texas on Aug. 30. The right-hander is 5-2 with a 5.17 ERA in nine starts against Seattle and 1-1 with a 6.94 ERA in two outings this season.
Seattle counters with former reliever Brandon Morrow (2-2, 1.42), who makes his second career start after taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 3-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
Morrow, who spent a month at Triple-A Tacoma making the transition to becoming a starter, allowed just one hit in 7 2-3 innings.
“Yeah, it was exciting, for sure,” the right-hander said.
On Wednesday, Ibanez went 4-for-5 with two doubles while Ichiro Suzuki also had four hits for the last-place Mariners.
Suzuki moved within 10 of an eighth straight season with at least 200 hits which would tie Wee Willie Keeler for the most 200-hit seasons to start a career.
“It’s always been a clear goal for me,” Suzuki said. “So there is not a reason that I wouldn’t be motivated.”
Ibanez, hitting a career-high .310 this season, is batting .378 (17-for-45) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 11 games versus Los Angeles in 2008.