3 up, 3 down: Rangers 9, Angels 2
July, 21, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For a while, Ervin Santana was an enigma. Now, he's just a problem.
The first-place Texas Rangers knocked Santana around Saturday, chasing him from the game in the second inning, as the Angels lost 9-2 to fall six games back in the American League West. Texas hit two home runs off Santana, who has surrendered 22 this season, second most in the majors to Seattle's Jason Vargas.
Still running. Mike Trout walked in the fifth inning, stole second and scored on Torii Hunter's single. It was the 22nd straight successful stolen base attempt for Trout and the 13th straight game in which he has scored a run. The latter mark tied an Angels record and an AL rookie record. If he keeps going this way, he's going to have far more impressive accomplishments by the time this season is out.
Torii's turnaround. He had one of his worst hitting games Friday night and struck out in his first two at-bats Saturday, but Hunter has a knack for bouncing back. He had one of the Angels' only meaningful hits and made a couple of tough catches in the sun's glare in right field. After one of them, Hunter got to his knees and then crossed himself since he appeared completely blinded until the final second or two. In a league with less and less on-field charisma, Hunter still radiates it.
Comfy setting. Imagine if Mike Napoli had hit this way at Angel Stadium when he was still playing for the Angels. He'd probably still be playing for the Angels. Then again, hostility can be a powerful motivator. Since the January 2011 trade that sent Napoli to Toronto (and Vernon Wells to Anaheim), Napoli has hit safely in 13 of his 14 games here, and is batting .439 with eight home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs. He smacked a couple of solo home runs, including one off Santana, his former batterymate.
Ervin. The Angels have an open date Thursday, so they can easily skip Santana's turn in the rotation. After that, what do they do? He is 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA. They keep expecting him to figure it out, but is it time to give up on that and slot him into the bullpen? It could accelerate general manager Jerry Dipoto's urgency to land a starter, with Tampa Bay's James Shields the latest pitcher linked to the Angels in rumors. Who knows, maybe Santana could find some success pitching in relief and they could solve two problems with one move.
K count. Things aren't going well for Kendrys Morales lately. The Angels' No. 5 hitter still hasn't reached double digits in home runs, and recently he's having trouble just making contact. Morales struck out three times Saturday and has one hit in his past 10 at-bats. Not that it's easy. In the sixth inning, Yu Darvish threw him a 66 mph curveball and then struck him out with a 92 mph fastball.
Matchups. The Angels have faced Darvish three times now, and their power hitters haven't looked comfortable against him. If he continues to dominate them, the Angels will find it difficult to run down the Rangers in the final two months. Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo combined are 1-for-16 against the former Japanese League phenom so far. Perhaps they'll catch up as they get more looks in the coming months and years.