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First place at stake for Angels, Rangers

August 26, 2011 |  4:09 pm


Angels Manager Mike Scioscia hesitates to call this weekend's showdown with the Texas Rangers "crucial." But with his team coming into the three-game set trailing Texas by just two games in the American League West standings, it's hard to call it "just another series."

"We're too early to talk about meaningful games or a must-win series," Scioscia said Friday. "But any time you see a goal ahead of you that's attainable and you're playing games that are obviously going to impact you getting your goal ... the fun stays in the game."

That's a departure from last year when the Angels entered the final weekend in August under .500 and in third place in division, 9 1/2 games off the lead.

"Games take on a little different feel," Scioscia says of late-season games that have little impact on the playoff field. "The fact that you're in a pennant race and you have an objective, you have a goal, and you're trying to reach that goal, keeps those juicing flowing."

The Angels are certainly going with a playoff-worthy rotation against the Rangers with Dan Haren pitching Friday's opener to be followed by Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver, who will both be pitching on three days' rest for the first times in their careers.

Scioscia also said reliever Scott Downs, who hasn't pitched in more than a week because of tightness in his left hamstring, will be available this weekend.

The lineups:


1. Peter Bourjos, CF; 2. Bobby Abreu, DH; 3. Howie Kendrick, 2B; 4. Torii Hunter, RF; 5. Mark Trumbo, 1B; 6. Vernon Wells, LF; 7. Alberto Callaspo, 3B; 8. Erick Aybar, SS; 9. Bobby Wilson, C. P -- Dan Haren.

Texas Rangers

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B; 2. Elvis Andrus, SS; 3. Josh Hamilton, LF; 4. Michael Young, 3B; 5. Mike Napoli, C; 6. Mitch Moreland, 1B; 7. Nelson Cruz, RF; 8. David Murphy, DH; 9. Endy Chavez, CF. P -- Derek Holland.

-- Kevin Baxter in Arlington, Texas

Photo: Angels right fielder Torii Hunter evades the tag attempt of Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba to score on Mark Trumbo's double in the first inning of a game last week at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times