Texas Rangers: Joel Piniero
As the Rangers head to Anaheim for a three-game series, we asked ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon to tell us a little bit about the Angels.
Q: The Angels played very well in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break. Can you tell us what's been the key or keys?
MS: Yeah, before this lost weekend in Oakland, they had won nine straight series. It was a very productive month. Why? The one-word answer is: power. They finally showed some, particularly at home, where they had been anemic through the first couple of months. Mark Trumbo has hit 18 home runs, putting him in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race. The two-word answer is: Vernon Wells. He finally got locked in, particularly in the power department.
Q: Mansfield's Jordan Walden has seized the closer's role. Talk about his season and why he's having so much success.
MS: It's pretty simple with him: It's raw stuff. After a bunch of injuries, the Angels finally realized he wasn't a starter at the start of last season and he has risen like a rocket since then. He throws 96 to 102 mph and he has developed a wicked slider. He has a little problem sometimes walking leadoff men, and that has usually been what's gotten him in trouble. But the Angels aren't complaining about having their rookie closer make the All-Star team and stabilize the back end of their bullpen. Sound familiar, Texas fans?
Q: Are Angels fans starting to see the better version of Vernon Wells? Why?
MS: He was a mess at the start of the season. One thing that hasn't gotten much ink is a strained hamstring that cost him the last week of spring training and started the season on the wrong foot. He finally got hurt, got some time to rest, and has steadily improved. He was hitting .179 when he came off the DL for a strained groin. He is a very good hitter, though he doesn't give you much on-base percentage. If he keeps driving the ball, the Angels should at least maintain a semblance of offensive continuity.
Q: How did the Angels feel about playing a scheduled doubleheader on Saturday in Anaheim? Was it worth it for the extra day after the All-Star break?
MS: As I understand it, they voted to approve it, with the caveat that they get Monday off. I guess if you're going to play four games in that depressing ballpark, you may as well do it in three days, right? Because they were off Thursday and Monday, even Sunday's one-third-of-an-inning from Joel Pineiro shouldn't punish their bullpen too badly for this big series.
Q: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the starters the Rangers will face in the series?
MS: Tyler Chatwood is only 21 years old. He throws a hard sinker a lot of the time, sits in the low 90s. Until the Angels skipped him in the rotation, he led the AL in walks, so that's one way he can get in a lot of trouble. Dan Haren has been struggling sporadically lately, but he's one of the toughest starters around when he's on. He's one of the few guys who still throws a split-finger fastball, so he can get strikeouts at key times. Jered Weaver is having, by some key measures, the best four-month start of a season since Pedro Martinez in 2000. There's not much more I can say about him. He started the All-Star Game.
Q: Anything else about the Angels that Rangers fans should know heading into this series?
MS: They're talking about adding a left-handed hitter or middle reliever before the trading deadline, but I continue to hear they don't want to spend a lot of money. If the Rangers can land a knockout blow this week, they could set themselves up for an easy August and September. Then again, I wouldn't let a Mike Scioscia team stick around too long or things could get hairy, because he usually has them ready to play.
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