Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baylor's Angels Are Flying Real High; AL Playoffs; LA Is Highest- Scoring Team in Baseball This Year

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baylor's Angels Are Flying Real High; AL Playoffs; LA Is Highest- Scoring Team in Baseball This Year

Article excerpt

ANAHEIM, Calif. * Don Baylor's return to the Los Angeles Angels got off to an unbelievably inauspicious start when the hitting coach broke his leg while crouching to catch the ceremonial first pitch on opening day.

Just about every game since has been an improvement for Baylor, who is leading the majors' most productive lineup back to the postseason.

Although he deflects any credit, the former Angels slugger and big-league manager known to everybody as "Groove" has his hitters right on track for a memorable October.

"I don't know what attention I'm getting, but I know one thing: I'm having fun watching those guys doing what they're doing," Baylor said. "Guys believe in each other, and guys have worked real hard to get to this spot."

Los Angeles has the highest-scoring team in the lowest-scoring baseball season since 1981. The Angels led the majors with 773 runs and finished second to Oakland in run differential, scoring 143 more times than their opponents including 92 more runs in the final three months, which gave the Angels homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with the best record in baseball (98-64).

The Angels open the division series Thursday against the winner of the Athletics' wild-card playoff at Kansas City, which was tied 7- 7 in extra innings late Tuesday night.

The Angels were a solid offensive team in 2013, but they've made a 40-run improvement over the roster that won just 78 games in the franchise's worst season in a decade. A potent offense is what's expected from a club with roughly $509 million committed to likely AL MVP Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but the Angels wouldn't be on top without remarkable contributions from every spot in the lineup.

Baylor also praises manager Mike Scioscia for distributing that talent in the batting order: Keeping Trout in the No. 2 spot, making Kole Calhoun their everyday leadoff hitter and plugging in Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick at multiple spots.

"Mike had to really just figure out where guys like Aybar and Howie fit in the lineup," Baylor said. "So what I saw (on opening day) was not like what you see today. There's a little bit more consistency with the lineup. …

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