ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Efren Navarro and Kole Calhoun drove in runs in the sixth inning, and the Los Angeles Angels overcame Drew Smyly's early dominance for a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
Tyler Skaggs yielded five hits in 5 2/3 resourceful innings for the Angels, who have won 14 of 19. Los Angeles improved the majors' second-best record to 61-41 and pulled within two games of the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics, who lost at Texas.
Miguel Cabrera homered and Smyly (6-9) had a career-high 11 strikeouts while pitching into the sixth for the Tigers, who have lost seven of eight in Anaheim.
Navarro had two hits after replacing Josh Hamilton in the fourth inning as the Angels earned their majors-leading 36th home victory by beating the majors' best road team.
The former American League MVP grounded out weakly in his only at-bat, and he failed to make a play on J.D. Martinez's long fly to left in the second, allowing it to bounce for a double.
Efren Navarro replaced him in left to begin the fourth. He had two hits, including an RBI single in the sixth inning that drove in Kole Calhoun for the winning run. The Angels earned their majors-leading 36th home victory by beating the majors' best road team.
Hamilton was batting .326 in the Angels' past 11 games, boosting his season average to .293. He has just five homers and 29 RBIs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Juan DeLeon/Icon SMIJosh Hamilton has struggled to hit for power since returning from a thumb injury.
Josh Hamilton started the season red hot, slashing .444/.545/.741 in the first 8 games of the season. Hamilton obviously wasn’t going to maintain those numbers, but it did give Halo fans hope that he could become the power threat he was with the Texas Rangers when he slashed .305/.363/.549 over five seasons.
Unfortunately, Hamilton then slid head-first into first base and tore a ligament in his left thumb.
He has now played in 45 games since returning from the disabled list. In those games he has just three home runs, after hitting two prior to getting hurt.
Thumb injuries are notorious for sapping a hitter’s power. Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper suffered a torn ligament in his thumb on a head-first slide a couple weeks after Hamilton did. He has seen his slugging percentage go from .422 before the injury to .368 after.
Trouble with the curve
This season, pitchers have found success attacking Hamilton with curveballs. He is batting .200 against the pitch. League average is .247.
Hamilton has missed on 49 percent of his swings against curveballs. 22 of his 42 plate appearances that have ended in a hook, have resulted in a strikeout.
Waiting for his pitch
All is not lost for Hamilton, the main thing he needs to do is be more patient at the plate. When he gets a pitch in the middle zone vertically he is hitting .391, more than 100 points better than league average. But when a pitch is either up or down he is hitting .243.
Hamilton has swung at 37 percent of pitches he has seen outside the strike zone. Among players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, that ranks 24th highest out of 257 players. As a result, 60 percent of the pitches he has seen have been out of the strikezone. The only player who has seen a fewer percentage of strikes is noted free-swinger Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants (62 percent of pitches outside of zone).
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Nick Castellanos drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a double in the sixth inning and Max Scherzer won his fourth straight decision, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
Scherzer (12-3) tied teammate Rick Porcello and New York's Masahiro Tanaka for the league lead in wins. He allowed three runs and six hits over seven innings and struck out 11. It was the fourth time this season and 22nd in his career that the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner had double digits in strikeouts.
Scherzer, the winning pitcher in the All-Star game, is 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts since giving up 10 runs over four innings in an 11-4 home loss to Kansas City on June 17. That came just five days after the seven-year veteran posted his first complete game and shutout in the major leagues with a three-hitter against the Chicago White Sox.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Kole Calhoun drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Brian Matusz in the eighth inning after a tying RBI double by Erick Aybar, and the Los Angeles Angels pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.
Jered Weaver (11-6) allowed two runs and six hits through eight innings, striking out six and walking none before the Angels recorded their major league-best 31st come-from-behind win. The right-hander won his fourth straight decision.
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman allowed a run and five hits over six innings, stranded seven runners in scoring position and picked off another at second base before handing a 2-1 lead to Tommy Hunter.
Josh Hamilton led off the eighth with a bloop single off Hunter (2-2) and came all the way around on Aybar's double to left-center. A two-out intentional walk to Efren Navarro and another walk to Chris Iannetta loaded the bases for Calhoun, who walked on a 3-1 pitch.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Miguel Gonzalez took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning, Jonathan Schoop homered and J.J. Hardy hit two RBI doubles to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night.
Gonzalez (5-5) allowed two runs and three hits in 7 2/3 innings, including a two-run homer in the eighth by All-Star game MVP Mike Trout after a walk to No. 9 hitter Hank Conger. The Angels' other hits against the right-hander were singles by Efren Navarro in the third and fifth innings.
Gonzalez was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, where he was optioned on July 11 in order to keep him on his regular routine during the All-Star break.
Richards has emerged as Los Angeles' top pitcher this season but is on pace to eclipse 200 innings, well over his previous career high.
Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, however, is not concerned about Richards' durability and said there are no plans to temporarily shut down the right-hander.
"Not at all," Dipoto said Monday, according to MLB.com. "Garrett has thrown from end to end in a season. His innings have not escalated to the point where they're 200-plus, but Garrett throws the ball as easily as anybody you'll ever see. It's not a violent delivery, it's not a violent package. He maintains velocity pretty easily."
Richards has been pivotal in the Angels' revival this season, going 11-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 20 starts. The 26-year-old pitched a career-high 145 innings last season and already is at 131 1/3 innings this year.
But the Angels (59-39) own the second-best record in the majors and entered Tuesday just two games behind first-place Oakland (61-37) in the AL West, so Dipoto won't be "phobic" about Richards' health while his team is in a division race.
"He's going to go out, and he's going to pitch," Dipoto said. "There will be time in the second half where we might be able to back up his pitch count on a given day or take him out. But we're not so phobic with innings that we're not going to pay attention to what the player is doing, or what his performance is telling us."
The Angels are the second-best team in baseball. Win or lose going into Monday night’s game against the AL East-leading Orioles, they were going to be the second-best team in baseball after the fact. They lost, missing the chance to move within a game of the A’s in the AL West race. But it’s July and there’s still plenty of time, so there’s no reason to sweat, right?
Certainly not, at least not if you look at the big picture and the projection models at FanGraphs or Baseball Prospectus, which say the Angels have a 98 or 99 percent shot at the playoffs. Slam-dunk sure thing? Sounds like it.
But there’s a problem with that: It doesn’t mean all that much in the era of the one-game play-in wild-card “round.” The Angels' shot at winning the AL West is calculated as much less of a sure thing, from the 20 percent range according to analyst Clay Davenport, to the 30s for FanGraphs, or the 40s for Baseball Prospectus. These are roughly the same as the chances of the Blue Jays coming back to win the AL East and then also not having to sweat a one-or-done scenario despite probably being 10 games worse than the Angels at season’s end. Saying the Angels’ shot at playing their way into the one-game coin-toss of the wild card is around 60 or 70 percent is like saying their chance of their season ending a day or two after the regular season is still astonishingly likely.
To pull this off in the long weeks to come, they’re going to have to find a happier answer in their rotation than the ones they’ve found so far. While the trades for Jason Grilli and Huston Street may have shored up their bullpen, there’s the larger problem of how good their rotation really is outside of newly minted ace and All-Star Garrett Richards. Assuming that Jered Weaver’s back is sound all the way down the stretch, he hasn’t overpowered strong teams’ lineups, seeing his OPS jump 50 points and his WHIP increase by 0.3 facing teams that are .500 or better; unsurprisingly, his FIP is 4.12, which suggests sturdy mediocrity, not the ace he once was. C.J. Wilson won’t be back from his DL stint for a sprained ankle until after the trade deadline; even if he’s sound, his 4.29 FIP doesn’t suggest he’s a solid No. 2, either. And the back-end trio of Hector Santiago, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker have put together just 15 quality starts in their 38 turns.
To catch the A’s, the Angels are going to need not just one guy but several guys to step up down the stretch. Not just because you can’t count on a league-best offense to crank out five or more runs every night, but because the Angels need to have somebody else besides Richards to use in those potentially scary end-of-year situations. What if Richards has to pitch in the last weekend series against the Mariners but the Angels don’t catch the A’s then? What if they have to play a tiebreaker? Who pitches the wild-card game? Where does that leave them in the ALDS? They’ll need some of the non-Richards starters to step up, not just to keep up with the A’s and their shored-up rotation, but to be able to win October games when they don’t put five or six runs on the scoreboard.
That was why Shoemaker’s start against Baltimore was a little more important than just another late-July turn. Barring a trade, somebody is going to be bumped once Wilson comes back from the DL. Even on a night when he struck out a career-high 10 batters, seeing Shoemaker get beaten deep twice by Adam Jones was the sort of thing that won’t keep the rookie ahead of Skaggs or Santiago, not that either of them is owning his slot.
To be sure, the Angels should be grateful things are this close. Thanks in large part to early-season bullpen problems of their own, the A’s are four games worse than you’d project from their runs scored and allowed, which is a big part of the reason they are within striking range for the Angels, even after Oakland went 20-10 in its past 30 games. All it took was the Angels going 22-8 in their past 30 before Monday, no easy thing to do with a rotation that may struggle to match the A’s made-over, Jeff Samardzija-enhanced rotation in the last 60 games.
If Wilson or Weaver, Shoemaker or Skaggs steps up, things will be that much more interesting all the way down to the wire. If not, the Angels may be one of those great teams that, like the 1993 Giants, wind up getting to brag about how great they were without getting much of an opportunity to prove it come October. Those Giants were caught from behind by the Braves, San Francisco winning 103 games for the second-best record in baseball … and no October invite. The Halos have to hope they’ll earn something more than one game better than that -- but more than hoping for it, they’ll have to do it.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.
Bud Norris (8-6) won for the fifth time in his last six starts, allowing two runs -- one earned -- and eight hits over 6 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts and two walks. The Orioles increased their AL East lead to four games over the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
Norris was recalled from Double-A Bowie, where he was optioned on July 10 in order to keep him on his regular routine during the All-Star break. The Orioles did the same thing with Tuesday's scheduled starter, Miguel Gonzalez, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on July 11.
Zach Britton pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.