Friday, June 1, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Angels 4, Rangers 2
By Mark Saxon
ANAHEIM -- The Angels took another step toward restoring what was supposed to be a heated rivalry with the Texas Rangers.
They rallied for a 4-2 win Friday night behind two key hits from phenom Mike Trout. Baseball fans have been anticipating a good fight between the two AL West heavyweights, but it has been a rout lately, with Texas winning 10 of the 13 previous matchups coming in.
The Angels pulled to within 4 1/2 games of first place, the closest they've been since April 16.
The Flash. He spent the first three weeks at Triple-A (and the Angels have played only eight), but Trout leads the Angels in triples. Any time he gets a hit that gets past an outfielder, he digs hard for third base. When he smacked one off the right-field scoreboard, it was almost automatic. Trout has been a spark since he arrived and he helped the Angels generate some energy on a night when Colby Lewis was lulling them to sleep. He also had the broken-bat single to center that drove in the winning runs in the seventh.
Call Jerome. You can't expect much more from your No. 5 starter. Jerome Williams gives the Angels innings -- and a chance to win -- virtually every time he takes the mound. Eight of his 10 starts have been quality. Things were wobbly for him early, but it was mostly due to an assortment of soft hits, and he got Mitch Moreland to hit into a couple of early double plays to avoid major damage.
Stoppers. It's amazing how much the addition of one pitcher can do to improve a bullpen. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto changed everything by adding Ernesto Frieri. Frieri has been ridiculous: 27 strikeouts and no hits in 13 innings. Now, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has three viable choices for the final two innings: Frieri, Scott Downs and Jordan Walden. He can make decisions based on matchups, and it's working like a charm so far.
Rough stretch. Alberto Callaspo came to the plate with Trout on third and nobody out and got to a 3-and-1 count -- with Albert Pujols on deck -- but, oddly, he decided to swing at the pitch ... and hit a weak foul popup to third. A few minutes later, maybe he was thinking about that bad at-bat when he played back on Nelson Cruz's routine grounder and flubbed it for an error.
Atmosphere. The Angels expect sellouts the next two games, but you would think a Friday night with the first-place team in town might generate more excitement. The Angels announced 40,040 fans were here -- about 5,000 off capacity -- but the crowd looked smaller than that, with the corners of the upper deck completely empty. Attendance is off by about 14 percent and the Angels have nobody to blame but themselves with their slow start.
Run defense. Backup catcher John Hester deserves the credit for jump-starting the Angels offense. He got the first extra-base hit off Lewis and scored the first run. But the Rangers ran wild on him in the early innings, stealing three bases. Hester has a slow release and the Rangers apparently had a good scouting report.