3 up, 3 down: Angels 9, Blue Jays 7
June, 28, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
The Angels are starting to obliterate memories of their miserable April.
Buoyed by a resurgent offense, they are hitting their stride just as the All-Star break approaches. They beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-7 Thursday, giving them 14 wins in their last 15 road games.
The Angels have combined for 47 hits in the three games of this trip.
Young muscle. Mark Trumbo's home run to the opposite field was impressive, but even more remarkable was his ninth-inning RBI triple. Trumbo just flicked his wrist and lined the ball to within a foot of the warning track in right-center field. This kid is remarkably strong. He's putting up gaudy numbers: .315, 19 home runs and 53 RBIs. If you factor in the Angels' home ballpark, he just might be the league's first-half MVP.
Getting on. Albert Pujols wasn't given $240 million so he could set the table for other hitters, but when he does it as well as he did it Thursday, nobody's going to complain. Pujols kept getting on base and scoring in front of Trumbo. He was 4-for-5 with three runs scored and, amazingly, is batting .270 after a sub-.200 April.
Those guys. It's not surprising that Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs are pitching well. They have been effective relievers for years. It is, however, surprising that they're pitching this well. Both of the Angels' late-inning relief options have miscroscopic ERAs (actually, Frieri's doesn't exist) and seem to virtually glide through the final two innings. Frieri got into a heap of trouble, loading the bases in the ninth, but his charmed life continues. He got a double-play ball to get out of it, with Howie Kendrick surviving a take-out slide and Pujols scooping a throw out of the dirt.
Haren's slump. Is it velocity? Is it location? Who cares. The Angels' No. 2 starter is struggling. Dan Haren typically has strong first halves, but he has had a disappointing few months. With just one start left before the All-Star break, Haren has a 4.53 ERA. For his career, his first half ERA is about .70 better than his second half ERA, so that makes his struggles even more worrisome. He left a fastball in the middle of the plate and Jose Bautista did what he does to those: He hit it 15 rows into the left-field stands and tacked three more earned runs onto Haren's numbers.
Mathis mashes. For whatever reason, catcher Jeff Mathis became a lightning rod for fans' frustrations over the offensive struggles of 2010 and 2011. After the Angels traded him to Toronto for lefty Brad Mills, Mathis didn't hit much better for the Blue Jays. But against his former team, he has looked like Pujols. Perhaps it's motivation? Mathis went 4-for-4, including a double and home run. I'm pretty sure I've never written that sentence before, unless it was in the 2009 playoffs when Mathis was as hot as he has ever been.
Torii's night. Just as Trumbo had done the night before, Torii Hunter was the only guy not getting in on the fun. The Angels' No. 2 hitter went 0-for-5 with a strikeout. The Angels managed to play around him and score a bunch of runs, so nobody's going to make much of a fuss about it. Earlier this season, nobody would have made a fuss about it, because it matched everybody else's line.