Angels 4, Rangers 1

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Anaheim Angels won their season finale in front of a cheering sellout crowd—and by the same score as their final game last year. That’s where the similarities ended.

This time, manager Mike Scioscia didn’t have the World Series trophy in his hands when he returned to the clubhouse.

The injury-ravaged Angels completed one of the most dismal seasons by a defending World Series champ in recent years Sunday, as Scott Spiezio hit a tiebreaking two-run single and Barry Wesson hit his first major league homer in a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“It doesn’t do much to numb the feeling of a tough season,” said Scioscia, last year’s AL manager of the year. “Our guys played as hard as they could. It’s obviously disappointing. There’s tangible things that make it clear why we’re where we are in the standings, but that doesn’t make it easier to digest.”

Anaheim’s 77-85 record was 22 games worse than last season, when the Angels earned the AL wild-card berth with a franchise-record 99 victories, won their first AL pennant and beat San Francisco in a seven-game World Series complete with rally monkeys and ThunderStix.

They became the sixth AL franchise since 1900 to improve by at least 20 wins one season—and then slide back by 20 or more losses the following year. The others were the Yankees (1903-05), Red Sox (1911-13 and 1945-47), Washington Senators (1942-45), Athletics (1943-45) and Indians (1985-87).

“I thought we’d play a lot better, but I wasn’t anticipating injuries and I wasn’t anticipating us getting off to a slow start,” said Spiezio, who finished with a career-high 83 RBIs and was one of only three regular position players who avoided the disabled list. “I think it’s a totally different season if everybody’s healthy the whole year.”

The Angels, who put themselves out of the running with a 5-20 slide after the All-Star break, staggered across the finish line with third baseman Troy Glaus, center fielder Darin Erstad, catcher Bengie Molina and designated hitter Brad Fullmer all on the DL. For good measure, second baseman Adam Kennedy broke his right hand Saturday when he was hit by a pitch.

“When we were down in the last month and a half and we’d lost some of our big guys, we knew it was going to be pretty much impossible to come back from that,” Spiezio said. “The chemistry wasn’t there. Those things happen in baseball and you have to overcome them. But we didn’t.”

The Angels drew a franchise-record 3,061,094 fans to Edison Field despite finishing just six games ahead of the last-place Rangers. As they left the field, a number of the players tossed their caps to fans seated behind the third base dugout.

“They stuck behind us all year and they never got down on us,” winning pitcher Scot Shields said. “As bad of a stretch as we went through for a month or so, when we weren’t winning very many games at all, they kept coming out to the park, cheering hard and staying late.”

Shields (5-6) allowed a run and five hits in seven innings. The right-hander, shifted from the bullpen to the Angels’ rotation Aug. 3 after Kevin Appier was released, had a 4.12 ERA in 11 starts after that.

Brendan Donnelly pitched the ninth for his third save.

Rafael Palmeiro had an RBI single in the third for the Rangers, who finished last for the fourth straight season with a 71-91 record in Buck Showalter’s first season as manager.

Texas became the third AL franchise since divisional play began in 1969 to finish last in its division in four or more consecutive seasons. The others were Toronto (1977-82) and Tampa Bay (1998-present). It was the 10th last-place finish by the franchise overall—including 1970 as the Washington Senators (AL East).

“There’s no 1-2-3-4-5-year plan. We’re going to be as good as we can be as quick as we can be, but we’re not going to do anything to sacrifice long-term success,” Showalter said. “What we’re doing here we want to stand the test of time.”

John Thomson (13-14) allowed three runs and eight hits in five innings. The right-hander, who signed in January as a free agent, was the only pitcher on the Texas staff to average at least six innings per start, pitching at least200 innings for the first time in his big league career.

Notes

The Rangers’ 5.66 team ERA was the worst in the AL, and their second-worst since the franchise moved from Washington to Texas in 1972. … Glaus, last year’s World Series MVP, said before the game that he’s decided not to undergo surgery on the injured right shoulder that sidelined him since July 22. … The Rangers’ bullpen set a major league record for most innings pitched with 601 1-3. … Alex Rodriguez, who led the AL in homers for the third straight season with 47, will go into next season needing one homer to tie CalRipken Jr. (345) for the most career homers by a shortstop.

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