Rookie league squad to play for title

On the last day of the season, the Angels' options were clear: win and earn a championship game, or lose and go home. While the offense got shut down, starter Tim Schoeninger and three relievers ensured the team would have the right to play for the league title, leading the Tempe-based club to a 1-0 victory over the Padres.

Entering Wednesday's season finale, the Padres and Angels were part of a three-way tie for first place with the Royals. Since the Padres won the first-half championship, a victory for them would have meant an outright title with no playoff game. (The Royals, who did not play Wednesday were eliminated because neither other club had to make up previous rainouts and finished with one fewer game played.)

The Angels, who came in having won 9 of twelve games thanks mostly to an offense averaging nearly seven runs a game in that span, managed just four singles on the night. They put two men on base in the same inning only once, when the Padres intentionally walked Matt Sweeney in the sixth. But, in the seventh, things broke their way.

After starter John Hussey, who had dominated the Angels for six innings, gave way, Stanford alum Chris Lewis poked a one-out single to center. Reliever Ray Garramone then uncorked a wild pitch to advance him to second so that, when Matt Ryan bounced to second a pitch later it became a force out to move the runner to third instead of a double play.

With two outs, Anel De Los Santos came to the plate with Lewis at third before Garramone again bounced one that got away from his catcher to force in the Angels' only run.

The Angels pitchers were able to make that lone run hold up. Schoeninger matched Hussey's zeroes through the first six innings, giving up only five hits and a walk while striking out six. The performance was enough for him to finish second on the circuit with a 1.79 ERA, which trailed only teammate Vladimir Veras, and 64 strikeouts in 75.1 innings of work.

Reliever Doug Brandt, selected in the 43rd round of this year's draft out of Cal State San Bernardino, weathered a pair of walks in his lone inning of work to pick up the victory, his first as a professional. Dominican-born Sammy Leon, 21, followed with a scoreless inning of his own before giving way to outfielder-turned-closer Warner Madrigal for the ninth.

Madrigal whiffed the first two batters he faced then induced a grounder to second to end the game and clinch the second-half championship and spot in the playoffs for the Angels. He finished the year on a run of six straight scoreless outings in which he struck out seven and allowed just three hits.

The same two clubs will play one game for the league championship on Thursday. The Angels will likely hand the ball to Veras, who has allowed just one earned run over his last 27 innings of work.

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