3 Up, 3 Down: Royals 7, Angels 3
April, 8, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM -- The Angels still have high expectations for 2012, but they didn't give their home fans much of an early showcase in their opening series. The Angels looked unsteady on the bases, inconsistent at the plate and shaky in the field during the three games against Kansas City that concluded with Sunday's 7-3 loss.
Albert Pujols looks like Albert Pujols again and that's as encouraging as anything around this team for now. He picked up his first RBI in the first inning on a chopper to the third baseman and had two hits, including a double into the left-center field gap. The problem was the three hitters behind Pujols, who combined to go 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts and stranded people all over the yard. Pujols was on base four times and never scored. That can't happen often or this is going to be a disappointing season.
Kevin Jepsen looks like a different guy, or at least the 2010 version of Jepsen. He threw a 100-mph fastball, according to the stadium radar, to Humberto Quintero and breezed through the eighth inning. If he's as good as Sunday's performance suggested, his presence could bolster a questionable bullpen. Don't be surprised to see manager Mike Scioscia move him into higher-pressure spots if he keeps throwing the ball like this.
You would expect the Angels to score a bunch of runs when the people who hit in front of Pujols get on base six times. Erick Aybar didn't walk all weekend, but he found ways to get on base, including once on a strikeout-wild pitch. Howie Kendrick keeps smashing the ball, even on the double play he hit into.
He hit .218 last year and is 1 for his last 12, so it seems reasonable to wonder whether Vernon Wells has simply lost the ability to hit consistently at this level. He struck out three times, twice on pitches above his shoulders. He hit a solo home run when the Angels trailed 7-2 in the eighth. In all, he stranded five runners and heard pretty loud boos after his third and fifth-inning at-bats. Even if the Angels remain committed to him (and the $63 million they owe him suggests they are), you wonder if he should ever bat as high as fifth until he proves he has turned it around.
Is it Mark Trumbo's fault that he has made three errors in two games at third base, or are the Angels trying to force a square peg into a round hole? It's too early to know whether the experiment is going to work, but early clues aren't promising. If Trumbo can't make the difficult transition to third, what do you do with him? It would be a shame to waste his powerful bat on the bench and there aren't many prospective at-bats in the outfield or at DH. It could become one of their tougher problems.
While the Angels struggle with some of the finer points, including base running and fielding, they would have hoped their excellent starting pitching would keep them afloat. But Dan Haren and Ervin Santana struggled in back-to-back starts. This Kansas City lineup is not a pushover, but you wouldn't expect pitchers of these guys' caliber to allow 10 combined runs. The rotation should be fine, but it's getting off to a shaky start.