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General Manager Billy Eppler, right, greets Manager Mike Scioscia after a news conference announcing Eppler as the Angels new GM at Angel Stadium.
General Manager Billy Eppler, right, greets Manager Mike Scioscia after a news conference announcing Eppler as the Angels new GM at Angel Stadium. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Ten major league teams have made their way into the postseason. The Angels, not one of them, still found a way in the last three days to steal some of the game's October thunder.

First, they played perhaps the most memorable game in franchise history, next to that Oct. 27, 2002, night when a fly ball off the bat of San Francisco's Kenny Lofton settled gently into center fielder Darin Erstad's glove for the final out in Game 7 of the World Series.

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Saturday in Arlington, Texas, trailing, 10-6, going into the ninth inning and needing a victory to stay in the playoff race, the Angels somehow rallied and won. It was startling and inspirational, as incredible a thing as you'll see in sport.

One statistician reported that the 1,761 previous major league teams in exactly the same situation — trailing by four runs in the ninth inning on the road — failed to do what the Angels did.

If there is such a thing as bowing out before the postseason on a high note, the Angels did that. They came apart with poor relief pitching in the seventh inning of Sunday's game and lost their last chance. But more are likely to remember Saturday's heroics than Sunday's collapse.

One person who will do that is the second part of the Angels' postseason "don't forget us" run. His name is Billy Eppler, just hired as general manager of the Angels. He was introduced during a news conference Monday.

How did the new boss feel when he saw his new team temporarily wrestle the sickle out of the hands of the grim reaper?

"My jaw dropped," Eppler said. He added that the rally made him want to stand side by side with these Angels, that "you take a bullet for guys like that."

So, less than 24 hours after the Angels' middle relievers couldn't find the strike zone with a basketball, there were smiles all around at Angel Stadium. Major League Baseball is in its 2015 playoffs and the Angels are already into their 2016 spin. If you are a season-ticket holder with a renewal application on your desk, you have to nod in admiration.

There was more. Manager Mike Scioscia will return.

If you consider contracts sacrosanct, that's not a big deal. Scioscia has three more years left on his.

But sports contracts are often little more than a soft landing for somebody who has fallen out of favor. Scioscia's soft landing would have been $18 million.

When a team doesn't win the World Series, or doesn't even get a shot at it, fans get restless and talk-radio hosts get giddy.

Scioscia's case is somewhat different. His consistent, steady management of all things makes him one of the least controversial people in major sports. This will be his 17th season. When next October comes, that will mean he has been the main man in the dugout in Anaheim for 2,754 regular-season games. Throw in spring training and the postseason and you have nearly 3,000 games.

All that with nary one crack, nary one tirade, nary one public, ugly clash with a reporter. There hasn't been a player purposely thrown under the bus. He even tempers his anger when yelling at umpires.

He was in charge when the Angels won the 2002 World Series and the red-clad Anaheim fans still cherish him for that.

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The confirmation that he will be back for 2016 was handled in typical Scioscia fashion. He was at the news conference but not on the stage, where Eppler was introduced and flanked by owner Arte Moreno and team executives Dennis Kuhl and John Carpino.

Afterward, in a small scrum of reporters he deals with every day, Scioscia said, "I'll be back. I talked to Arte and I talked to Billy. Everything's good."

Eppler left the same impression. He is 40 and comes from the New York Yankees, where he was an assistant general manager and was around long enough to work for the feisty one, late owner George Steinbrenner. As Frank Sinatra would sing, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

If first impressions matter, Eppler was a hit.

He is friendly, quick with a quip and a good line, and somehow able to convey with sincerity an older-than-40 perspective.

He said he needs to "get to know the people." He said he "isn't the kind that likes a lot of change." He said he will know much more in a month and will do so by "asking a lot of questions, which is my nature."

Since Jerry Dipoto resigned around midseason as general manager, under speculation that he and Scioscia didn't see eye to eye on things, a contention Scioscia has repeatedly denied, Eppler was pressed on that subject.

He said that he saw "no red flags" when he took the job, and he called Scioscia "a phenomenal manager."

Scioscia, asked if he had a say in Eppler's hiring, said, "No, and I shouldn't have."

So, it appears that all is peachy for the team right down the street from the happiest place on Earth.

But when the smiles fade and the backslapping ends, much work is needed. The Big A doesn't become a real Magic Kingdom until the Angels find more middle-inning arms that can find the plate and more bats that can get themselves on base in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

Scioscia brings stability. Saturday's stunning victory brings hope and a show of a foundation of team chemistry. Eppler brings new eyes.

Still, for Angels fans, the 2015 playoffs bring envy.

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