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TIME FOR ANGELS TO TAKE CHARGE.

Byline: STEVE DILBECK

ANAHEIM - Can we get on with this now? Get all serious and determined? Play with confidence down the stretch and do something crazy, like go out and claim the division?

The Angels should be able to pull this off. Finish September looking more like the team that was once 20 games above .500 and threatening to run away with things, and not the team that's gone 16-19 since.

The Angels beat the A's 3-0 Thursday, taking two of the three games and leaving them locked up all cozy atop the A.L. West. Real familiar like.

There are 29 games left for each and may the best team win. And if it's not the Angels, then something is wrong.

The division is there to be had, and it's the time for the Angels to do the taking.

This is not to knock the A's, whose remarkable success has been almost as mysterious as the Angels' offensive struggles.

``Oakland is a good ballclub,'' said Chone Figgins. ``They're here. You can't take anything away from them.''

The A's have the best record in baseball since May 30. They have, somehow, another very good rotation. Play solid defense. Do plenty of things pretty well, but nothing that screams greatness.

It's not like this current incarnation resembles the club that won 91 games last season. They are not robust and charging into the stretch with a full steam of health.

Their original closer, Octavio Dotel went out for the season in May with Tommy John surgery. Their designated hitter, Erubiel Durazo, followed in July.

Now they've lost shortstop Bobby Crosby, probably for the rest of the year, with a fractured ankle. This is what you might call noteworthy, what with the A's being 58-24 with him and 17-34 without.

Then outfielder Mark Kotsay out with a bad back and starter Rich Harden down with a rib cage strain.

By comparison, the Angels are all rosy cheeks and bright eyes. Third baseman Dallas McPherson is out for the season, but it hardly seemed he was ever here. Starter Kelvim Escobar remains out, but should return.

``You can't just make a list and compare them,'' said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. ``If you're a playoff-caliber club, your depth will show. And they've been getting good depth, just from a lot of young guys.''

The Angels are primarily a veteran, experienced club that shouldn't be stumbling in a September showdown with the mostly young A's, even if Tampa Bay still is on the schedule.

To pull it off, of course, the Angels will have to manage to put together an offense with more pop than the local Little League All-Star team.

That would require that several Angels step up, and we're not talking playing over their heads, but simply resembling the player their checks are made out to.

Darin Erstad has to at least approach the guy who hit 25 home runs in 2000, and not the one who's never hit more than 10 in any single season since. Orlando Cabrera has to actually hit more home runs than David Eckstein.

Adam Kennedy has to snap out of this 3 for 30 skid. Robb Quinlan or Juan Rivera or Casey Kotchman or somebody has to at least come close to what Steve Finley was supposed to be doing in September.

And Vladimir Guerrero has to get over being intentionally walked a few times, finally hit his 300th career home run and end this no-homer, one-RBI spiral he's been drowning in since Aug. 14.

General manager Bill Stoneman's not going to help them, so it's up to the Angels to approach their offensive potential.

The starting pitching has been more than anyone this side of Arte Moreno had right to hope for, and despite its shaky moments, the bullpen has mostly delivered.

This is not the deep Angels team of World Series lore, but there should be plenty to bring home the West. It's not like this is some outrageously competitive division. Really, it's fairly weak.

And since there doesn't appear any truly great team in baseball this season, getting into the playoffs leaves all things possible.

``It's all even now,'' Erstad said. ``You can throw everything that's happened here out the window.''

Finish on a roll, overcome the A's as they should, and then see what happens. There's 29 to go and no time to waste.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 2, 2005
Words:731
Previous Article:ANGELS AND A'S ARE EVEN ANGELS 3, OAKLAND 0.
Next Article:L.A., OTHERS MAY PICK UP CONVENTIONS.


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