LAA vs. LAD: Perseverance vs. momentum
June, 11, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
The Angels' three yearly games at Dodger Stadium are among my favorite days of the season, and not just because I can go door-to-door from my house about an hour faster than I reach Angel Stadium.
Like all the good regional interleague rivalries, Angels-Dodgers is as much a clash of demographics as of baseball teams. For two counties that border each other, L.A. and Orange counties don’t have much in common aside from traffic, mountains and sunny beaches.
This season, the Dodgers are scrappy overachievers, plowing through an endless string of injuries, including one to the best player in the National League. Without Matt Kemp, they somehow just completed a 7-3 road trip and have the best record in baseball. They’re the embodiment of a team.
The Angels, flush with new revenues, were the shiny new object this spring -- before they played so poorly in April that everyone rushed to consign them to the junk heap. Over time, their talent began to shine through and, for the past few weeks, they’ve been as dangerous as any team in baseball.
This week’s series is a clash of perseverance vs. momentum.
The Angels’ momentum isn’t only a product of their 14-4 record since May 22, it’s derived in part from their dominance of the Dodgers (and the rest of their league) in recent years. The Angels haven’t lost a season series to the Dodgers since 2006. They’re the only team in baseball that has played at least 10 games at Dodger Stadium and has a winning record (22-21) there (courtesy of Katie Sharp, ESPN Stats and Info).
Since 2010, the Angels’ edge has been at its sharpest. They have outscored the Dodgers 60-36 in those 12 games, winning nine of them.
And this year, they have Albert Pujols, who -- for the past few weeks -- looks a lot like Albert Pujols. They also have Mark Trumbo, an emerging star, and Mike Trout, a burgeoning superstar.
Both teams have brilliant starting rotations, though they came at it from different angles. The Dodgers’ starters rank second in ERA in the NL, the Angels’ rank second in the AL.
Since the respective front offices fixed their bullpens, those have become strengths. The Dodgers’ tweak was internal, promoting hard-thrower Kenley Jansen to the closer role. The Angels had to go outside the organization, with general manager Jerry Dipoto landing hard-throwing right-hander Ernesto Frieri and instantly flipping a liability into an asset.
Neither team tends to score a lot of runs, though the Dodgers are averaging six runs a game over their past five (even with a no-hitter in the middle), while the Angels just romped through Coors Field, piling up 28 runs in three games.
They do have some things in common, including Angels manager Mike Scioscia, whom the Dodgers are honoring with a bobblehead Tuesday night, and first-base coach Alfredo Griffin. Scioscia and Griffin were teammates on some great Dodgers teams in the 1980s, including another overachieving group from 1988.
Bobby Abreu thought he had more left in the tank this spring and he’s showing it, about 30 miles north of where he figured he would. The Angels, flush with outfielders, released Abreu in late April and he’s batting .326 with a .442 on-base percentage for the Dodgers, who have seen outfielders go down in droves.
Two other ex-Angels, Juan Rivera and Adam Kennedy, also have chipped in for the Dodgers well after the Angels gave up on them.
As usual, when these two teams meet, they have just enough in common to want it that much more.