By the time the Angels took the field tonight, the 162-game schedule left them nothing more to accomplish. Baltimore had lost, at last giving up the prize: a top-seed in the playoffs, a favorable matchup with the Wild Card winner, and a guarantee of home-field advantage throughout October. So that's it, then; the Angels win the 2014 regular season, as far as that goes.
Which is not very far, of course. Such is the burden of hope, and the price of expectation. While the Angels won't break the franchise record of 100 wins, they will be, by just about any measure, the best team in baseball, no matter what happens this weekend. But what about next weekend? A three-game sweep at the hands of a bruised Wild Card team, and the season dies in ignominy. If the pendulum swings the other way, though, then the clocks keep ticking and the trains keep running, with no alarms and no surprises.
So I choose to read nothing into tonight's game. Had the Orioles wrapped up a few minutes earlier, Mike Scioscia might have just submitted his C-lineup anyways. Let's all assume that Jered Weaver had strict orders to soft-toss lazy fastballs like he would in a mid-March tune-up game. Hopefully the offense, which struck out nine times without drawing a walk, just needed to get everyone back to the hotel and into bed early. In spite of it all, they still had a chance at another comeback; Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout went back-to-back off Hisashi Iwakuma in the 6th, and a 9th inning rally on Fernando Rodney made it 4-3, at least until David Freese and Brennan Boesch left Erick Aybar standing on second as the Mariners walked off the field.
With Oakland and Texas starting just one hour earlier, Seattle will be fighting for their lives again tomorrow, while Scioscia probably will break out the C-lineup and continue to audition the last remaining bench and bullpen spots for the postseason roster. It's a weird place for a fan to be right now, that dull void between celebration and anticipation, but it's a comfortable boredom, which should be a welcome luxury to anyone.