3 Up, 3 Down: Angels 7, Rangers 4

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
8:32
PM PT
ANAHEIM -- The Los Angeles Angels have finally gained a little second-half momentum.

Behind six strong innings from returning starter Dan Haren and a 15-hit attack, the Angels beat the first-place Texas Rangers 7-4 Sunday night. The win gave the Angels two straight series wins over the Rangers and trimmed Texas' AL West lead to five games.

The Good:

Haren's hope. It's not that the Angels weren't winning any games. It's just that they were only winning games started by Jered Weaver, or at least that's how it seemed for more than three weeks while Haren was out. Haren's six more-than-solid innings were just what this beleaguered staff needed. His fastball was back where it needed to be -- in the 88- to 90-mph range -- and his secondary stuff was sharp. Nelson Cruz hit a long home run off him, but otherwise the Rangers looked baffled. Getting Haren back could soothe a lot of nerves around here as the Angels rev up for a pennant race.

Not backing down. Twice, Texas pitcher Matt Harrison backed Mike Trout off the plate with inside fastballs. A lot of young players would have tried to get even, swung harder and gotten themselves out. Yet another sign this kid is drastically ahead of the learning curve: He reacted calmly and worked walks off Harrison both times. Trout also had a leadoff triple -- on an automatic double for 85 percent of the league -- and scored a run for the 14th straight game. That set a new AL rookie record.

Machinelike. Remember back in early May when everybody who knew Albert Pujols was saying he'd get going and do what he always does when the season was over? Seemed kind of preposterous at the time. Not so much now. After batting .196 and going homerless in April, Pujols is again the guy he always has been. After smashing a deep home run off Alexi Ogando and driving in three, Pujols is on pace for 30 home runs and 101 RBIs. Amazing turnaround.

The Bad:

Short at short. Judging from Erick Aybar's pregame comments, the Angels could be without their Gold Glove shortstop for a while, maybe even 15 days or longer. Aybar fouled a ball off his right big toe Saturday and the Angels were awaiting the results of X-rays. If he is out for an extended period, Maicer Izturis is going to have to pick up his game. The Angels called up top prospect Jean Segura, but it sounds as if he will be a short-term backup until Andrew Romine is eligible to return from Triple-A.

Lefty issue. Scott Downs, we're finding out, is, indeed, human. On July 7, he had a 0.30 ERA and had been all but automatic in save chances. In three outings since, he has allowed 10 base runners and five runs. It's far from a major concern, but if he could return to near-perfection it certainly wouldn't hurt the Angels' chances of holding late leads.

Opportunity. Bobby Wilson was robbed of a chance to hit for the cycle because he was batting ninth and got just four at-bats. OK, so maybe it would take have taken the lumbering catcher about 700 at-bats to get a triple, but still. ... While we're on the subject, it's worth mentioning that Wilson's big night at the plate -- including his first home run -- may have saved his spot on the 25-man roster. Starter Chris Iannetta should be back within a week. Wilson went into Friday batting .197 and was feeling some competition for the backup role from John Hester.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jered Weaver
WINS ERA SO IP
17 3.50 157 200
OTHER LEADERS
BAH. Kendrick .291
HRM. Trout 34
RBIM. Trout 107
RM. Trout 109
OPSM. Trout .940
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOG. Richards 164